Lisa Gray is a blogger at ResstlessGrayGirl.blogspot.com, a writer, a bookseller at The Book Shelf, and a public speaking instructor atWinona State University and all of this happens in her fair city of Winona, MN.
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On February 27th, 2011 Corporal Andrew Wilfahrt died in Afghanistan. On February 28th, 2011 gay rights became my issue. Andrew was among the first known gay soldiers killed after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Had he a partner, he would have received none of the government issued $100,000, the paltry price tag they put on Andrew’s life.
My sister is gay and she came out well over 20 years ago in a small rural town in Iowa to little fanfare or drama. My parents accepted her and loved her and none of this really struck me until after Andrew’s death because this is when Minnesota decided to put an amendment on their November ballot seeking to define marriage as something that happens only between a man and a woman.
I felt horrified that someone who gave their life for our country would not being able to enjoy basic civil rights and I went to work with his parents to begin talking about this in our state. We want to make people understand that if we pass this amendment, we are denying people we love a basic freedom many of us take for granted, the freedom to marry.
I, myself, took for granted this basic acceptance until I started to tell the story of my sister and our family. Heart wrenching tales of suicide, depression, complete exclusion from families because of being gay were shocking to me and became the background noise that I could not tune out.
And so I am not. Instead, I am using these stories as my motivation to continue this fight to honor those no longer with us and to ensure those who live in Minnesota have a fighting chance for equality. I will re-tell my story as often as I need to in order to show people that it doesn’t have to be this way.
I am telling people that if we Vote NO to this amendment, we are saying yes to gay people and we are saying yes to being compassionate human beings. 31 states have failed to block such an amendment. In Minnesota, I believe we can make history.