|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!