Forty Under 40: Activism

Amy Balliett heads up an impressive list of out activists that includes Tony Biel, Brad Sears, Thai Pham, James Neiley, Christoph Babka, Katelynn Cusanelli, and Timothy Scofield.

BY Advocate.com Editors

May 06 2009 12:00 AM ET

1027 JAMES NEILEY 40 UNDER 40 X390 (GRAHAM SMITH) | ADVOCATE.COM

James Neiley | High school student | 17 | Charlotte, Vt.

James Neiley had always been passionate about pursuing a career in fashion or business, but after offering emotional testimony in support of same-sex marriage before Vermont's legislature in March, the high school junior says he's now considering a career in activism. Just one week after turning 17, Neiley pleaded for equal rights, arguing: "Without marriage equality, the boys in the locker room during gym class who harassed me are encouraged to believe that my sexuality means there is something different, wrong, and lesser about me." His speech landed him on political blogs and on the front page of several daily papers throughout New England. "His authenticity comes straight through," says Christopher Neff, executive director of Outright Vermont, which arranged for Neiley to deliver his testimony. Response from family and friends has been overwhelmingly positive, but as many 17-year-olds would, he neglected to inform his mom that he was testifying until it was nearly time for him to do so. "I sometimes forget to tell my parents things," he says. "I told her [about the testimony] a day before. She was like, 'You what?' But my family is so supportive…I'm very lucky."

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