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