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A senator faces
off with Gen Q

A senator faces
off with Gen Q


A teen activist braves an antigay crowd at a Virginia town hall meeting with a conservative would-be presidential candidate, U.S. senator George Allen--and engages the senator in a debate on the Constitution and equality

The following is reprinted with permission from 16-year-old Tully Satre's blog. Satre lives near Washington, D.C., and Culpeper, Va. You can find his full blog at and his MySpace home page at

Tuesday, March 21

I never dreamed of the day when I would reach a political debate on a human rights issue based on civil liberty and the foundations of our great country with a senator, former Virginia governor, and a potential candidate for the Republican [nomination for the] presidency.

Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia), held a public hearing in Culpeper this evening. I was there, and so was Culpeper.

Any Virginian who held true to current events could tell you in a less than half a second who George Allen is: a senator and former Virginia governor. But could every Virginian in such short a time, let's say even within a minute, tell you where Senator Allen stands on the basic issue of civil liberty? Probably not.

Senator George Allen has [been] consistent in his support for bills and amendments which directly attack gay and lesbian families around the United States of America. During his [current] term, which comes to an end [in January 2007], Senator Allen openly supported the Federal Marriage Amendment, which sought to define marriage as between ONLY a man and a woman, and in effect go so far as to ban all unions between people of the same sex seeking the benefits of marriage, all 1,138 of them.

Last year, Senator Allen supported a bill which would PROTECT gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens--the hate-crimes bill which included "sexual orientation" [as a protected class]. However, this year Senator Allen made a statement saying that he regrets his support of this bill, and would--if faced with it again--vote against protecting GLBT citizens in this country. Why? Well, tonight was Virginia's opportunity to get a more clear understanding what this senator believes.

I quickly made my way to the board of supervisors meeting room in Culpeper in the backside of the old post office. I did not expect to see such a large crowd. Over 100 citizens packed the room, including Culpeper's sheriff, Ed Scott (R-Culpeper) [of the Virginia house of delegates], the Commonwealth secretary, the Culpeper board of supervisors and Culpeper school board, as well as countless media-related persons (N.Y. Times, Washington Post, Culpeper Star-Exponent, Culpeper Citizen, etc.) It did not take me long to realize that many of the citizens attending the meeting were from my old Catholic Church, which was across the street. Also in attendance was Joe Rocha, [Equality Fauquier/Culpeper] board treasurer [and] member, and several other EFC supporters, who I sat with.

The hearing was about to begin as Senator George Allen walked in the room to a crowd cheering. I sat as everyone stood, I was still as everyone cheered--I simply cannot stand or applaud a man who did not believe in the very basic philosophy of this country. I could not cheer on a man who knowingly supports taking away the rights of Americans.

Soon enough, after Senator Allen spoke of several bills he supported and passed (skipping those regarding civil liberty, of course), the senator opened up the floor to public opinion and questioning. I was not first to stand, or first to raise my hand--no, I did not want to press the senator with a controversial issue right away. A man behind me was granted the floor and he spoke of war in Iraq and his undying support for the Republican Party, which he believed was collapsing and losing power.

Soon enough, the floor was changed--citizens wishing to question the senator should stand up at the podium in front of the audience. I immediately stood up in response, and stood right behind a woman who took charge of the floor at the podium. She questioned health-related issues, food additives, and the lack of warning labels. Soon enough, she stepped down and the climate was right for controversy--which, I might add, seems to be the train that follows me, but not the train I attempt to board.

"Thank you, Senator," I began as all eyes were on me. Del. Ed Scott looked intently at me--he knew why I was there; Delegate Scott and I frequently converse about GLBT issues in Virginia. "I first want to thank you for being here, I really appreciate when our elected officials are so willing to allow the public to speak with them." Senator Allen smiled. What was he expecting me to say?

"I wanted to speak with you in regards to a hate-crimes bill that was introduced in Congress not too long ago." He nodded at me as I continued, "This bill sought to add 'sexual orientation' to the country's list of types of people that are victims of hate crimes. I myself have been victim to threats and assaults of hate crime based on the fact that I am gay, and I am a Virginian. Only two weeks ago my friend was in Richmond when he walked out of a restaurant with his partner; another person called him a 'faggot,' drew a knife, and attacked my friend. Luckily, my friend lived--others are not so lucky. Last year, you supported legislation which sought to add 'sexual orientation' to the nation's hate-crime list, and for that I thank you--but later, this year, you said that you regret your support for this bill and would not support this bill in the future. Why is that?"

Senator Allen kept his smile, kept his poise, and prepared one of those typical political responses. He told me a story, that once he was at a gay pride festival in Philadelphia, and there was a peaceful group reciting verses from the Bible across the street. They were arrested for assault. He believes in religious freedom, and believes religious freedom of expression is ideal in this country. I agree. Senator Allen continued to say that he believes sexual orientation is not a civil right. Everyone broke into thunderous applause. I doubt the crowd understood--Senator Allen seemed to turn the table, making my statement appear as if I was advocating for "special" rights, which of course is far from the truth.

"Well, Senator," I began. "I too believe religious freedom of expression is part of what this country was founded upon--it is a beautiful thing to be able to express your views--however, sexual orientation is not a civil right, it is a part of someone, and gay citizens are being denied basic civil liberty, very basic rights that most citizens are granted." The senator said something along the lines of disagreement. "If you believe that this is how gay citizens should be treated," I continued, "I am assuming that is why you supported the Federal Marriage Amendment."

Senator Allen seemed a bit tense. He continued to say that his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment was merely the passing of legislation that the people of this country wanted--to protect the values that this country upholds. Senator Allen was consistent with repeating this message at least five times in about 10 different ways, including citation of statistics and specific references. Senator Allen even began to speak of what was and what was not constitutional--including actions from activist judges as well as a separate case where Massachusetts became the first and only state to approve same-sex marriage...which, according to him, was in contrast [to] what the people believed.

"Senator Allen," I began, leaving a bit of a pause, "I think we both can agree that what the majority may think is not necessarily always constitutional. Take a look at history: Slavery, for example--that was supported by a majority of our citizens at one time, but it by far was not constitutional, and it by far was invading the basic freedom of citizens in this country. We can not say that majority rule is necessarily constitutional when it comes to issues of human rights and basic civil liberty. I, as of now, do not have the choice to be married."

"Yes you do!" Senator Allen shot in.

"Not to a man I don't," I said back, continuing, "I am 16, I am still in high school--and I am worried solely because I am defined a second-class citizen in this country. From issues relating to marriage--all 1,138 federal rights granted to heterosexual couples--to not being able to serve this country, to adoption and a number of other issues--I am not granted basic civil liberty that this country was founded upon. How is that constitutional?"

Senator Allen gave a response unlike any other I have received from anyone. His response was in agreement to my statement on history and majority rule--[contradicting] his previous statement, but a continuation in support of unconstitutional legislation. Clearly this debate was going nowhere--the audience kept cheering at his responses and I did not have the support of the room. I realized I had made my point clear, given strong examples, and no further discussion could shift the room.

I thanked him and stepped down from the podium, and a flock of reporters swarmed around me asking questions.

Senator Allen looked over nervously, motioned to a reporter, said her name, and said he did not know The New York Times was there. Interestingly enough, she turned around and looked to me for questioning. Senator Allen made a quick move and called my name, saying that he wanted to be clear he did not support the harsh treatment of slaves at the time. I said that I did not mean to make a parallel to the treatment of the slaves in historical text--but rather the fact that majority rule at that time was clearly unconstitutional and invaded upon the freedoms of citizens. I turned around, gave all the reporters the information they requested, and sat down.

One of the ladies I was sitting with leaned over and whispered in my ear, "You really are a voice to be reckoned with!" I let out a slight laugh as the room sat still in response to what has shaken the communities of Fauquier and Culpeper: issues of basic civil liberty, this time for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens--a true issue that is not meant to be ignored, even in the most conservative counties of Virginia.

Senator George Allen has every right to defend his views as he sees fit--however, no man has the right to attempt to redefine a Constitution established in order to protect the basic civil liberties of all citizens equally under the eyes of the law in our great country.

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Tully Satre