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Know thy

Know thy


My partner of 18 years, Alex, and I are both small-town antique dealers from the north shore of Massachusetts. We were thrilled to be married in our home state when same-sex marriage became legal there in 2004.

It was shortly after our one-year anniversary last June that I heard the spokesman for the antigay Massachusetts Family Institute, Kris Mineau, boasting on the radio about how his organization would file a petition to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage and how he expected to gather more than double the 65,825 signatures needed to put the proposal on the ballot. He cited "the groundswell of support to stop same-sex marriages" in our state. I guess it was the hubris this man exhibited that prompted me to pick up the phone and call my secretary of state's office.

Now, I have done my share of activism--writing letters, protesting at the statehouse--but this was the first time that I made a personal call to an elected official; I had an idea and I needed to find out if it could work. I spoke with the secretary's chief legal adviser. "Are the names and addresses of the signers of any initiative petition public knowledge?" I asked. "Yes, they are," she replied. I then explained that I was opposed to the marriage petition and that I wanted to publicize the names on the Internet. To my amazement, she actually suggested that as someone in opposition it was my "job" to do so. was launched on September 7, the day that state attorney general Tom Reilly approved the filing of the antimarriage petition. While some gay rights leaders approved, others did not. Surprisingly, they asked me to shut down the site--they called it silly and mean-spirited. But I stuck by my decision, and it has benefited our community in ways I never imagined.

In the beginning our Web site was about listing the names of people who signed the petition as a means to check for fraud. But it ended up giving gay people and their families the opportunity to, in a civil and respectful way, talk with their neighbors, friends, and coworkers about why this issue was important to them. In a way, I was giving people what I wished I had been given many years ago--a reason to speak up. I never was able to come out to my parents or friends when I was younger. Both of my parents died without ever knowing how much Alex means to me.

So why has been criticized by some in the LGBT community? It's simple. We're still afraid to tell our stories. We are outing the people who have signed up to strip away our rights, but we are also outing ourselves. We are placing our neighbors and coworkers and others on the list in the uncomfortable position of having to explain why they are signing up to take our rights away. And we are forcing ourselves to address this issue and speak out to those we know, in a personal, meaningful way. If you were to view this list of names and you saw your aunt and uncle, your elementary school teacher, that waitress who was always so friendly, your local policeman, your friend's parents, the husband of the woman who works for you--how would that make you feel? What would you do? What would you say? Massachusetts gays and lesbians are asking themselves that very question. And so am I.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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