All Rights reserved
On February 22 in Wyoming, two straight Republican state representatives stood before a legislative committee that was debating a proposed bill that would have invalidated same-sex marriages and civil unions legalized in other states. Although not committee members, Pat Childers and Dan Zwonitzer spoke in an open hearing to oppose the bill, which subsequently died in committee, 7-6.
Speaking out for civil rights for gay citizens can be problematic in Wyoming, where homosexuality evokes Matthew Shepherd, The Laramie Project, and Brokeback Mountain. So what prompted Childers and Zwonitzer to stand and oppose the proposed amendment?
"I'm a hardheaded man. What can I say?" Childers, 65, says. "I've always felt like right is right and wrong is wrong. What's right is giving people their rights." After all, he adds, Wyoming's motto is "The Equality State."
And Zwonitzer? "We're not a religious conservative state. We're a libertarian state," the 27-year-old says. "After I made my speech, I heard from Republicans throughout the state. They said that it's about time that the party gets back to what it was."
Zwonitzer hadn't planned to take a stand. But after a committee member stood and spoke, urging passage of the bill, he found himself compelled to say his piece.
"I believe this is the civil rights struggle of my generation," he said that day. "My parents raised me to know that this is wrong.... And in 20 years, when [today's children] take the reins of this government and all governments, society will see this issue overturned, and people will wonder why it took so long."
Childers, for his part, who has a gay daughter, testified to the committee in an equally personal way. "I told my fellow representatives that I am left-handed and born that way," he recalls. "My mother was left-handed too but was forced to write right-handed. They tied her left hand behind her back. People don't do things that way now."
And although he has received some hate mail for his pro-equality stance, he says it has been far outnumbered by e-mails and letters of support. (Katie McKy, The Advocate)