On Monday, Donna and I, along with Maureen, had the incredible privilege of attending the NJ State Senate Judiciary Committee’s public hearing on NJ S-1967, the Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act. This bill, sponsored by Senators Weinberg and Lesniak, would allow gay couples in NJ to get married.
It was an amazing day for a few reasons.
1. Maureen just got engaged. She and John haven’t set a date yet, haven’t started making plans yet – but she told Donna that when she was making phone calls to let her friends and family know she and John were engaged, she thought about the fact that gay marriage is not legal in NJ right now. When Donna asked her to tag along on Monday, Maureen said yes without hesitation. She kept us distracted throughout the morning with a steady stream of chatter, and when the hearing finally started, she listened intently along with us, getting frustrated at the opponents’ ridiculous arguments, or raising her hands in the sign for “applause” with the rest of us when proponents testified. It made us feel incredibly loved and supported to have her there, especially since support isn’t something we get every day.
2. Julian Bond was the first person to testify at the hearing, and he testified in favor of the bill. That man is freaking amazing, and I was so honored to be able to listen to his testimony. He drew strong parallels between the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the gay rights movement, invoking such icons as the incredible Bayard Rustin and Coretta Scott King. I have just spent the past few weeks reading Bond’s name over and over again in the texts for my Civil Rights class, and I really feel some sort of universal serendipity over the timing of this class and this bill. It was great validation that I’m in the right place in my life.
3. I got to see a piece of history. Whether or not this bill passes, I got to experience, first-hand, how our government works. Listening to the oral testimony, being in the State House and watching the people – it was amazing. I felt like I was a part of something special, not just because of the content of the bill, but because of where I was.
4. There were over 1,000 people at the State House in support of the bill. Over 1,000. Almost 100 of them were clergy members of all faiths, and many of them stood up to testify in favor of the bill. There were families with small children, teenagers with rainbow hair, elderly couples both gay and straight. I sat next to a woman who was heavily involved in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s – I was too shy to talk to her, but I really wanted to.
5. The opposition had less than 100 people present. I think it’s a fairly good indication that though they are passionate about the subject, they’re not as dedicated as we are.
Tomorrow is the full Senate vote, and I’m nervous. I spent my lunch hour today trying not to respond to some bigotry on the civil rights class discussion boards, with success – but I’m feeling sick to my stomach and my hands are shaking. I don’t like that people get to me this way, and I have to wonder how much of what was posted would have been said in a face-to-face classroom setting.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Senate vote postponed. More to come.