A senator faces
off with Gen Q

A senator faces
            off with Gen Q

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 http://tullysatre.livejournal.com/
and his MySpace home page at http://www.myspace.com/whitedeosil
 

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.

Tags: World, World

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