Sean Bugg and Cavin Le exchange rings
(Photo by Ward Morrison)
I've joked often in the past few months that I'm lucky my family tree is rooted firmly in red-state territory — my father's side in rural Kentucky, my mother's in southern Indiana — which means I don't have to worry about trying to convince any family members to vote for Barack Obama tomorrow because in the larger scheme of things their votes in 2012 won't make one whit of difference in those states.
This is, honestly, a cop-out. I stand by my stance that I will not de-friend or otherwise back away from family members or friends who have different political opinions than I do. And I'm familiar with the cliché that knowing an actual gay person in the family makes a huge difference in how straight people react to other gay people, so I know that simply by being an openly gay part of my family with my husband in tow is important in the long run.
But it's a cop-out because there's more to life than living by example and, frankly, it's part of my job description to make my opinion heard and, I hope, change some minds or at least encourage people to think about certain things from a different angle. I don't enjoy direct political discussions with family. Fortunately, I'm a writer so I can do it this way. And opinion writing is much more of a two-way street these days than it ever was, so they can just as easily tell me to ''shove it'' online as they could over a holiday dinner.
So, here's my last-pitch effort for my folks back home:
Dear Buggs and Kintners,
I think you all know by now that I'm pretty proud to be a Kentucky boy and a half Hoosier, so I'm just going to jump right to the point: I realize that most of you are planning to vote for Mitt Romney tomorrow and I'd like you to at least consider the reasons that are important to me that you don't.
I'm sure a lot of you have assumed that the reason I'm so pro-Obama is because I'm gay, and gay issues drive my vote. To be honest, that is in large part true. But it is no minor reason for me — it goes directly to what it means for me to try to build my life and family as I see fit.
As it stands right now, should something dire happen to me, every one of you would have greater claim over my life and possessions than Cavin, who is my husband in every way but legally. My father's wife could have more claim over my business assets than Cavin if I were to die; my mother or father, or pretty much any of you, could block him from seeing me in the hospital if I were sick and incapacitated. And the reverse is true: If something happened to Cavin, because of the way we divvy up our ownerships, his family could toss me on the street.
We're lucky in that I don't believe either of our families would do that to us, but I know far, far too many people who have had it happen. These are not fantasies of persecution on the part of those of us who are lesbian and gay; they are true and justified fears for us.
I don't kid myself that the idea of Cavin and I being married is not a religiously difficult thing for you. I grew up going to church with many of you, and I know how important church is in your lives. But I'm asking you to remember that I can get married in a church right now; in fact, our wedding ceremony incorporated a lot of the religious traditions from Cavin's family. No one can ever force your church to recognize or conduct a same-sex marriage, any more than they could force the Catholic Church to recognize a divorce. You have a constitutional right to that and I would fight my butt off to make sure you keep it. I just want my marriage to be legal, not to be performed in a church that doesn't want it.
But Romney and the current Republican Party want to change the actual Constitution to not only block marriage for us, but to retroactively divorce the thousands of gay couples who've married in states where it's already legal. Romney says he thinks we should have a few things, like hospital visitation, but supports state and federal laws and amendments that would erase that right, even beyond marriage.
I just ask you to put yourself in our shoes. None of you would ever stand for that kind of interference in your own marriages and families, and you never should. I don't want to stand for it either, so I have to ask you to think about Cavin and me, our family and our friends, all of whom just want to enjoy the liberty that each of you already do. I think that you all know that my marrying Cavin hasn't done anything to weaken your marriages, and being so accepted by all sides of my family has done nothing but strengthen my own relationship to Cavin, as well as to each of you.
Please keep that in mind when you cast your vote tomorrow.
There are plenty of reasons that I support Obama beyond gay-equality issues, enough that I could go on for another couple thousand words, but with less than 24 hours to go I don't think you or I really want to get that deep in the weeds. I will say this: While my political leanings have oscillated over the years, I've maintained a slightly conservative interior bent on non-social issues. The answer for every issue can't be ''tax cuts''; government has a positive role to play, even if it must always be evaluated by voters; and we have a responsibility to build a society that provides opportunities — opportunities, not handouts — to those who have been a lot less fortunate than us. This isn't socialism, it's fairly conservative realism, and it's what I voted for in 2008 and what I will vote for again tomorrow.
Like I've said, I'm not going to turn my back on anyone in my life who chooses to vote for Mitt Romney. Doing so would just make me the very thing that I feared most when I was young — the idea that I would be cut off from my family for things I believed and something I was. While it was rough going at first in some ways, that never happened and I'm grateful for that. I think it's only fair that I return the favor.
However you vote, just keep us in mind. I'll always love and respect you all. Maybe in a couple years we can talk about Mitch McConnell — that'll be a hoot.