February 21, 2012

A Brief Reaction to the Wake County Board of Commissioners

Yesterday, while I was in class talking about freedom songs of the Civil Rights Movement, the Wake County Board of Commissioners was busy voting to support Amendment One, an amendment to the state constitution that would make any legal recognition of same-sex partnerships unconstitutional in North Carolina. Because I was in class, I couldn’t make it to the meeting to speak during the public comments section. So I figured that I’d do it here. Without further ado, here’s what I would have said to the Wake County Board of Commissioners at their meeting yesterday:

Hello Commissioners,

I want to take my allotted three minutes to introduce you to two people who have played an extremely important role in my life, to introduce you to two people who I deeply love, two people who have made me the person that I am today.

I want to introduce you to my mom and dad.

They’re the ones sitting over there waving at you shyly; my mother’s the one that’s probably beginning to get teary-eyed at the sight of her little boy speaking in front of the County Commissioners, and my father’s the one who’s been overzealously socializing with the stranger he’s sitting next to up until I started speaking. My dad’s a people person, and just like me, he’s never met a stranger.

Today, I stand before you as someone who has spent most of his young life working to bring about a world where his rights and the rights of his community will be recognized. I stand before you as someone who has had to fight for his very identity. I stand before you as a minority whose right to a family is currently being decided upon by a majority vote. I stand before you as someone whose home state has turned its back on him. I stand before you today as a proud gay man.

But let’s be realistic. I know that you probably don’t think about people like me. I know that you probably don’t think about the families of queer people or about the rights of those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. I know that, at best, many of you may think people like me are strange, and at worst, many of you think that we’re an abomination. I know that you probably don’t think about how this amendment impacts me, even though I grew up in Wake County, even though I completed over 300 community service hours every year in high school, and even though I was one of two Wake County students who received a full-ride scholarship to Duke my year. I know that, no matter what I do, you probably don’t think about people like me.

So I want to introduce you to two people who you will think about. I want to introduce you to two straight people who will be profoundly hurt by the proposed constitutional amendment, because I know that those are the kind of people whose rights and concerns you respect.

I want to introduce you to my parents. I want to introduce you to them because they’re probably not the people that you’ve been thinking about up until now. In your haste to insert discrimination into our state constitution, they’re the kind of people that you’ve forgotten about. I think you’ve forgotten that almost every person who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender has straight parents, has a mom and a dad. I think you’ve forgotten that my family is larger than just my future husband and my future children—my family includes my straight brother, my straight mother, and my straight father. And if this amendment passes, my straight father and mother will be deprived of legal recognition of their grandchildren. If this amendment passes, my straight brother will be deprived of legal recognition of his nieces and nephews.

What I think you’ve forgotten is that what you define as “gay” families are never truly “gay.” You cannot separate my “gay” family from my “straight” one. Everyone that I love, everyone that has shaped who I am, is part of my family, gay or straight. And in your rush to take away my right to a “gay” family, you’re depriving my “straight” family of their rights too.

So if you cannot respect me for who I am; if you cannot respect the rights of queer people, then at least respect the rights of straight people. Respect the right of my straight mother to look at her grandchildren for the first time, to rush over to them, to scoop them out of my arms, to hug them in the way that only a new grandmother could, and to spoil them for the rest of her life. Respect her right to a family. Respect the fact that, behind most gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals, there are straight parents who want their families to be recognized, who want the best for their grandchildren.

County Commissioners, I want you to meet Abraham and Jane Tobia, my dad and mom. I want you to meet the people whose right to a family you are trying to take away by supporting Amendment One. I want you to meet the people whose current and future family will be broken apart by your actions today.

And North Carolina, I want you to meet my parents too. I want you to meet them so that, when you go to vote on May 8th, you’ll know exactly whose family you’re impacting. I want you to meet them so that you will know once and for all that this amendment is not just about gay families—it is about all families. I want you to meet them so you can know exactly whose rights you’ll be taking away if you vote in favor of Amendment One.

Say hello.

-Jacob

[Editor's note: If you want to take a stand against Wake County's Resolution, consider signing this petition.]


53 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing this, son. I am honored to be your mother.

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  2. This was amazing. Definitely sharing with my GSA.

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  3. Jacob, thank you for this wonderful letter.

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  4. Jacob:

    Tremendously well said. Thank you for courageously sharing your story.

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  5. So beautiful. Jacob once again mingles love and respect with his tenacious grip on the political strata. You've won me over!

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  6. You are simply wonderful. (Kind of awkward to comment this while we're in the same room, but whatever)Best post on the blog in a long time.

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  7. This was FANTASTIC Jacob! It was great to meet you at the Duke Vote Against Photo Shoot.

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  8. "My dad’s a people person, and just like me, he’s never met a stranger." That's great. You're great. As much as I don't want to support you because you go to Duke... Just kidding, of course! Much love and keep it up. We can do this.

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  9. This is wonderful. You are wonderful!

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  10. This is fantastic. Thank you so much.

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  11. beautiful and articulate, not to mention im tearing up.

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  12. I don't know you Jacob but you have a new "fan" in me! My daughter is a Duke grad student and co-founder of the Vote Against Project. I wholeheartedly support the efforts in defeating Amendment One. Tell your parents I said they have an amazing son. I'm sure they already know that!

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  13. Ack... such a beautiful point but so many similarly constructed sentences... X[

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  14. Jacob your reaction was beautiful and well said, I have a grandaughter who is gay, and I love her for the person she is and proud that she to stands up for what is right, thank you.

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  15. Fantastically written. Your parents are certainly proud, as are all of us other "proud gay men" and all of our straight families who stand by your side.

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  16. Well said, Jacob! Awesome! I'd be proud to have you as a son!

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  17. Beautifully put! I've said for months that this proposed amendment isn't "just" a gay issue, for it's about people. And dividing people into "us" and "them" never turns out well - for either side. Thank you.

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  18. Beautifully said. I know your parents are proud. We will not be defeated in our fight to protect the rights of ALL.

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  19. Well said, Jacob. Proud to be a Dukie. :)

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  20. Thank you for your thoughtful comments about those thoughtless people. I am so sorry that you and other gay and straight people must suffer because of ignorance. Let's hope that the U.S. Constitution can be used to call out these new discriminatory laws. And all who care about religion: remember that separation of church and state protects both the church and the state.

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  21. this is incredibly written as a fellow Dukie (who has never met you may I add) I am proud that one of my fellow students is brave enough to take such a strong stance. I am inspired by your commitment to this cause and I will share your story with anyone who will listen.

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  22. You should have started a with a warning: do not read unless you have tissues close by. This moved me so much. Thank you. And thank you also to your parents for raising such an fine human being.

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  23. Well said! Your parents have raised a fine young man. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

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  24. So proud of you Jacob! And just love these photos of you with your parents.
    Jenne Scherer Mondry

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  25. Thank you, Jacob, for speaking out. Sandy

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  26. Could not have been said better! Wonderful family and can only imagine how proud your parents must be! Much support to you from Illinois...

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  27. This made me cry. Thank you for fighting to make the world better. For everyone.

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  28. Every time I read something you've written I cry. Every time. You are amazing, and I'm sorry that you have to fight for this, but I'm glad that YOU are fighting.

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  29. Hooray for Jacob, and his GREAT mom and dad!

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  30. Beautifully said, support from a stright family with much love.

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  31. On behalf of my gay and straight family in Fairfax County, VA, Thank you for this well written and thought provoking post.

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  32. Beautifully put. The state needs to recognize it doesn't have the right to define what constitutes a family and no amount of legislation can prevent who you love.

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  33. Well said -- I support you and your family

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  34. The best three minutes I've ever invested reading something on Facebook. Well said!

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  35. Ummm....how are Jacob and "his future gay husband" ever going to produce "grandchildren" for his straight parents ? Marriage is not a right.

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  36. VIVA LA FAMILIA <3 LOVE IS... Saludos from Lennox, CA :o) Smile!

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  37. As parents of a gay daughter who has a life-time partner, who is a person of faith, and has three beautiful sons (ages 11, 9, 7), we appreciate very much your comments. We, as straight grandparents, who love our daughter and her partner and their three adopted grandsons, have had a joyous and exhilerting experience helping them take care of these boys.
    We do not want to lose any of those opportunities. Therefore we are opposed to tthe Amendment. Our daughter and her partner confirm their Christian experience and are involving their boys in a Christian experience.
    In addition, they have to cope with discrimination which should not take place in or society. Thus parents and grandparents can be decisevely impacted by this Amendment. Therefore we encourage all of you to vote "No".
    Thanks,
    Brady

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  38. damn son those schmucks in the state legislature can only dream of writing something so compelling. this is the kind of thing that anyone will respond to. bravo.

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  39. Fantastic! Well said and courageously shared.

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  40. Jacob, As a straight man with a son about to turn 1 year old, I can't imagine a world where your mom wouldn't be able to spoil a grandchild because of other people's bigotry. The fact is that my son has 2 wonderful sets of grandparents who love him and spoil him, one set that will most fervently vote against Amendment One and one that I suspect would, at best, abstain. I pray (Yes, PRAY) that we can convince them and at least 1 more person than 50% that your rights are our rights and that your mom should have the same opportunities that my mom has. Thanks for sharing!

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  41. As the straight mother of a bi-sexual teenage daughter, I applaud you. Human rights should never be put to a majority rules vote, and I am extremely disheartened by the Wake County commissioners decision. Stay strong. We shall overcome!

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  42. @Anonymous 12:11 AM
    YOUR perspective is not the only view, it is only YOUR view of what makes a family.

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  43. @Anonymous 11:28 PM
    YOUR perspective on what makes a family is not the only view; it is only YOUR view.
    @Jacob
    What a beautiful, thoughtful letter about the impact this discriminatory piece of legislature will have on every person who loves a GLBT person.

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  44. Hey, Anonymous 2/21/12 11:28. Whatever your views on marriage, our federal constitution tells us that all citizens are equal under the law. As long as marriage is legally recognized by the federal government and carries with it benefits and protections specific to it, marriage is a right. And it's a right that a significant portion of the population is being denied.

    Also, on the subject of Jacob and his future husband producing grandchildren: there are these things called adoption and surrogacy. Look them up sometime.

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  45. Jacob,
    We'd love to have your story shared on a site we are starting. You can find it here: http://iamwhoyouhate.com/

    If you would like it reposted just contact us through the site and we will be happy to include you. The site is a work in progress so please ignore any missing areas.

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  46. Jan says: "Jacob, I've always been proud of you in every way since your young days at St. Francis. But I've never been prouder of you than I am right now!

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  47. Carolyn Surles says: I live in a country that fought for the “rights” of its citizens and later ratified a constitution that bestowed upon its citizens “certain inalienable rights that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, “rights” that are guaranteed by that constitution. As amendments were added to this constitution they expanded these “rights” of all its citizens in such ways as giving women the right to vote, free speech, abolishing slavery, and equal protection under the law. Please note that none of these amendments were designed to take any “rights” away. As state constitutions were passed they followed the same pattern. Knowing this, I am ashamed that our state of North Carolina will be voting in May to add an amendment that will not expand our “rights“, but will take some of those precious “rights” away from citizens such as my daughter and her partner by not letting them both be legal parents of their three sons or by not giving them the “right” to shared insurance or tax benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples in the workplace. Their children will also lose the “right’ to have two legal parents which will affect among other things their medical services, health insurance, and inheritances. My husband and I will be affected in that we will no longer be legal grandparents to our three precious grandsons with all the legal implications that would bring. Then there are the countless others in this state, both heterosexual and homosexual, who could be adversely affected in many ways by this cruel amendment to our state constitution. One of which could give legal protection from abuse only to those couples living together who are “man and wife“.. Therefore I am asking that you think through the far reaching repercussions of this amendment which might even affect you or some of your loved ones and vote AGAINST on May 8.

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  48. Thank you, this convinces me even more and strengthens my resolve to support the marriage amendment. You have spoken to the exact concern of those who believe in the institution of marriage founded by our Father in Heaven, the fact that the gay agenda is to corrupt the meaning of a family. You are the one depriving your parents of the joy of being grandparents. Do not try to shift your disrespect of your parents onto others and then try to use them as clubs on people who believe in the only form of marriage God will ever recognize.

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