If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
1 Corinthians 13:3-7
Yesterday I read an article in The Seattle Times about how close Washington State is to passing a gay marriage law. In the article, Senator Rosemary McAuliffe was described as undecided, but likely to support the bill. I double-checked my legislative district, and sure enough, she’s my state Senator. What the heck, I figured, Why not throw in my $0.02 to tip the balance? (And I might as well mix metaphors, while I’m at it.)
The Internet handily provided direct email to her, so I sent off a very brief email. I said:
Dear Senator McAuliffe,
I know that you are a busy person, so I will keep this brief: As one of your constituents, I am writing to encourage you to vote yes on the upcoming gay marriage legislation. It is the right thing to do, and I believe will make life better for many Washingtonians.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
[My Full Name & Address]
Not my most eloquent, but at least I said something, right? And I figured I’d either hear nothing, or I’d get a canned reply from her office that told me the six dozen ways she’d done this, that, and the other excellent thing that related to my interest. Nice enough, but nothing interesting.
Instead, within 24 hours, I received the following reply.
[My Full First Name],
Thank you for sharing your support for Marriage Equality. Below I have shared with you a letter I am releasing to the public tomorrow. Thank you again for involving yourself in the legislative process and lending your voice to such a vital cause.
Okay, yes, it’s somewhat canned — almost certainly she had a template pertaining to this topic, and handily inserted my name at the top. But it’s not obviously templated, and it’s definitely a real reply, so I know that my representative heard my view. Attached was the following letter:
The governor recently announced her support of marriage equality. For decades our country has struggled with discrimination in many forms. I am proud that our state has a past of joining together to support equality for women, racial minorities, people with disabilities, and religions — now is the time to support all families with the respect and dignity they deserve.
Separate but equal is yet another form of discrimination. For many people, I know this is a very sensitive issue. I have received many letters, emails and phone calls for and against marriage equality legislation. An overwhelming amount of constituents have sided with my own belief, that all Washington citizens deserve the chance to be equal under the law. We are free to believe whatever we choose however we live in a state and world where our laws protect human rights for all.
A main concern I have heard is the right to religious freedom. This bill includes an important exemption for religious organizations and clergy to continue to exercise religious freedom.
In the past, I have supported civil unions, domestic partnerships, and the efforts of Senator Ed Murray to stand up for equality for same sex couples. We as legislators must be vigilant about protecting all of our citizens against discrimination. I support marriage equality and have signed my name onto this long overdue legislation to ensure all of our children grow up in a society that truly promotes equality.
Senator Rosemary McAuliffe
State Senator 1st Legislative District
Well, hey. How cool is that? I am unexpectedly pleased about this whole exchange. Probably my email made no difference in her decision, but just having said something and knowing it got heard — that’s pretty great.
Mostly, to me, the government feels like some vast ship steaming along, unable to stop or change course quickly, driven by momentum to very slow changes even if the rudder changes direction. Politicians are the crew members of the ship, and we’re the passengers. Sharing my views may make one of the crew members pause for a while, or nod and smile, or say something inanely polite, but the ship will just keep chugging along its course, regardless. But in this case, something I — and a bunch of other people in the 1st Legislative District — said influenced the behavior of one of the crew members. That’s how it’s supposed to work, of course, even though it doesn’t always. But I’m pleased it worked this time.
And, of course, I’m hoping to soon celebrate marriage equality in Washington by making some rainbow-colored cake or something.