Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Delaware Marriage Equality

Me speaking before the Delaware State House Committee today in Dover

So how did I spend my day?  I testified before the Delaware legislature for support to pass the Delaware Marriage Equality Bill (HB75).  This is the bill that will make marriage legal between same sex couples.  

First of all, I wasn't the only person giving testimony.  There was a wide range of folks giving testimony, for and against.  Church leaders, couples, and even a female Delaware State trooper.  Very few of us are professional speakers. I know I'm not, this is the first time in my life that I've ever spoken before this many people.  The last time I spoke in front of a group this large was a bowling banquet back in 1966, two years after Bill and I hooked up.

We all spoke before a packed house. The gallery was full.  Bill stayed outside, waiting for me in our car.  


The Gallery and house floor at the committee meeting today in Dover

I think there were about twenty of us scheduled to speak, with two minute time limits.  I had practiced and practiced until I had my time down with 20 seconds to spare.  

We lined up four at a time. I was number nine.  A funny thing happened when I confirmed my name on the speaker's list.  They had me at "Bill Tipton."  I'm actually "Ron Tipton".  Bill's my partner as I told the nice woman who was scheduling the speakers.  Me, with my preciseness would have been knocked off kilter if they called "Bill Tipton."  Oh well, I got it corrected,

With the two minuted time limit on the speakers it wasn't too long before I was standing before the microphone.  OMG!  First thing that came in my head is "What am I doing here?"  Then I remembered, to promote marriage equality by telling my story about me and Bill.  How we met in July of 1964 and have been together ever since. As my friend Chuck M. said to me when he called me on his cell phone after my testimony, "...and you're still best friends."  And indeed we are folks.  Me and Bill, together always.

Which brings up the one little glitch in my speech.  I was going along well in my two minute statement until I hit a "speed bump."  It was the part near the end of the speech where I say:

"However this one thing I do know for sure.  Bill and I have been married in our hearts for almost 49 years.  Despite harassment, fear of physical harm and the threat of discrimination, we have tried to live out those words that we hope to someday say under law:  "Until death do us part."  

Folks, I hit the "speed bumpt at "Bill and I have been married in our hearts......" and then this BIG lump came into my throat.  All the practicing I have done over the past week and this is the first time I choked up. Panic.  I paused....tried to recover and then attempted to say the next words "for almost 49 years" but all I got out was a squeak.  Hey, talk about being mortified and then some quick thinking on my feet.  I didn't want the guy who was raising the placard with the 10 second warning about my time running out which would cause me further panic.  I took a deep breath and picked up on the next sentence "Despite harassment........"  Thank God I finished without any more "speed bumps", thanked the Madame Chair and exited quickly our the side door.  Before I left a young man who one of the several speakers yet to speak put out his hand to shake mine.  Maybe that young man won't have to live his life the way Bill and I have lived most of our 49 years together, being treated as "less than."  

What a day folks!  I'm glad I was asked to contribute.  Anything I can do to make other same sex couples who will follow me and Bill long after we're gone is a very satisfying accomplishment in my book.  And just to think, I used to write letters to the editor years ago to influence and change people's minds.  

Now for the good news, when we got home I heard that the Delaware House Administration committee we were giving our testimony voted 4 to 1 to pass the bill onto the house floor.  Great news!



23 comments:

  1. YAYZ! and don't you look handsome there! congrats on jumping the first hurdle!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anne Marie,
      My father is rolling over in his grave now.

      Ron

      Delete
    2. too bad for your dad; you are who you are. he cannot stop you, or the mighty force moving this country forward!

      Delete
    3. Anne Marie,

      Pop would have been mortified. I would have been instructed by my Mother not to say anything. That's the way they handled my gayness. They could never get over it. But at least they still recognized me as their son, albeit with a "problem."

      Ron

      Delete
  2. Congratulations on a monumental day! I enjoyed reading your description of the events - it was obviously a job well done. You have a lot more courage than I do. Public speaking is definitely not one of my fortes.
    I like the photo of you speaking. It looks presidential.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jon! I look presidential? You should of heard me, probably didn't sound presidential but I was passionate. That counts.

      Ron

      Delete
    2. Congratulations, Ron! I'm proud of you!

      Delete
    3. Buddy Bear,

      Thank you! I don't know who that guy that was up there yesterday. That's not me. That was someone else. If you could have known me when I came out, Bill said I was so shy I wouldn't even ask a stranger for directions when we got lost in our car. But yesterday was a cause I believe in passionately. I'm glad I did it. Not looking forward to doing another though.

      Ron

      Delete
  3. You are an inspiration Ron! I am so happy the bill passed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nadege,

      Actually the bill just passed out of committee. Now it goes up for a house vote. Then later a vote in the senate. Nothing is easy. But I think it will pass.

      Ron

      Delete
  4. Most brave of you, Ron! Not surprised you choked up considering all you have been through to be accepted. Our government yesterday approved same sex marriages which comes into effect in August. How wonderful that you and Bill have stayed together all those years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Paul,

      You understand. Bill and I have been through a lot. I don't think, in fact I know a lot of the straight people there yesterday, have no idea of what it is like to lead a life of hiding, lies and avoiding discrimination, and threats of physical violence just for loving the wrong person. Even many of the young gay people there don't understand. Maybe I got through to some of those straight legislatures that gay people like me and Bill are just like them; we love one another and only want to have a happy and productive life free of the fear of discrimination, harassment and psychical attack just for loving one another. The choking part caught me completely by surprise, so embarrassing. But I did finish my speech. Thank goodness for that and I made a quick exit.

      Ron

      Delete
  5. That's so awesome! YOU'RE SO AWESOME! Very, very cool, Ron. And the lump in your throat just added to the impact of your speech. Because I am sure everyone there, for and against, knew what it meant to you to be up there. Congratulations on making a difference.

    Peace <3
    Jay

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jay,

      I'm not a public speaker. As you know I was nervous about the little speaking I had to do at the Bloggerpalooza. But I had to speak yesterday. I just could not do otherwise. I am so glad I had an opportunity, however small as it was, to make a difference. That to me is what life is all about.....making a difference.

      Ron

      Delete
  6. Replies
    1. Geo,,

      Thank you. It wasn't as easy as it looked. First time I've ever spoken in front of that many people and it had to be the Delaware Legislature! Wow. Hope it's the last time. I have a new found respect for speakers now.

      Ron

      Delete
  7. Breaking up with some emotion only makes your statement more passionate and heartfelt and PERSUASIVE!

    David

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David,

      It wasn't planned and caught me totally by surprise and I was mightily embarrassed (could hear a pin drop when I struggled to get the words out) but maybe it did just that, convince my listeners of my sincerity. I know one thing, I was very glad the exit door was right behind me. I got out of there fast!

      Ron

      Delete
  8. Wonderful result, Ron - and due in no mean way, I'm sure, to your own valiant effort. It's people of our generation (i.e. you, Bill and I) who can make a much greater impact than the younger (though no less sincere) advocates of marriage equality - the latter of whom may be written off as naive, immature 'hotheads' going through a fanatical stage. On this issue maturity counts for much more. So well done to you for having the guts that you showed.

    Btw: Now, after France (almost certainly), there's N.Z. to add to the growing list of countries. Goodness me! Is there no stopping it? I should hope there isn't!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ray,

      This is a not a role that I sought. It was thrust upon me by circumstance (actually by someone reading my blog and noting that Bill and I had been together for 48 years). When I was asked to be the "poster boy" I knew there would be a problem with Bill because he doesn't like to be in the spotlight. And there has been a problem but we got over it and he has accepted that I "got out there." You understand as I do what our generation had to go through as being gay. Either deny or lie about who you are or put yourself out there to be on the receiving end for the hate, discrimination and always present fear of psychical violence. That is the story of most of our years together because I refused to lie about who I was. I am so happy that now, during my lifetime, that government legalized discrimination will end. There will still be those who will never change their minds about gays and lesbians, seeing them as "less than." But I know in my heart that my love for Bill is just as valid as their heterosexual love for their mates. I am glad I had the opportunity to do something to end this discrimination.

      Ron

      Delete
    2. You are a veritable BEACON, Ron. It would take a heart of stone not to be moved nor to respond positively to your exemplary demonstration. Sadly, as we all know, there are indeed those very hearts of stone still out there and still with considerable clout. But they are, slowly but surely, being eroded away. Let's hope we can all see this thing realised a.s.a.p.

      Delete
  9. Ron,

    It is hard to give a speech you are emotionally passionate about. Same thing happened to me last year giving short eulogies on my parents. But breaking down at such a point actually shows the fact you are sincere and works for you.

    Lar

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lar,

      That is EXACTLY why I did not give a eulogy at either of my parent's funerals. I wanted to but I knew I could never get through it. Thank goodness my brother John is a professional at giving eulogies. However, yesterday it was only I who could say what I had to say. I did not expect to get emotional but when I came upon the part where I said "This one thing I know for sure, Bill and I have been married in our hearts for 49 years...." I just totally lost it. That Old Frog came right up in my throat and wasn't going anywhere. Saying that statement brought back all the years of discrimination and hardships Bill and I have had to endure just for loving one another in spite of all society and the government against us, we were still together after almost 50 years with a love that is stronger than ever. It has been a long time Lar. I know you and Lois have been married longer than Bill and I have been together but the one thing you had we didn't was acceptance. And that makes a big difference. Now, finally, at the end of our lives we may just go to our final rest knowing that we are no longer "less than", that our love for each other is just as valid and true and your and Lois's love for each other. No longer do we have to live as "not quite good enough." We are equal under law and the eyes of God.

      Ron

      Delete