Dear Governor Romney,
When I was 14 I fell in love with my best friend, and she fell in love with me. The next morning I went home, closed the door to my room, and asked God please just to let me stop breathing.
This past weekend, some two decades later and in full Technicolor, a 21-year-old man named Herve Tennessee appeared in The Boston Globe—maybe you saw the photo too. He was marching in a Boston gay parade, and he told the world he intended to go find his high school boyfriend and propose.
Sociologists an age from now can sort out the ramifications of Massachusetts’s decision to begin marrying gay couples this week, a revolution you as a public official did everything but sacrifice a vital organ to stop. One effect, though, is already apparent. As a young gay person so long ago, I wanted to die. Today, Herve Tennessee has not only decided to live, but to grab his new freedom and race to the altar with it. “It’s not like we’re hurting anyone,” he told the Globe‘s reporter.
If you had to lose a culture war, governor, this was a good one to pick. After all, you never stood at a schoolhouse door with an ax. No, all you did was try to stand between a few hundred gay couples and a marriage license. They’ll be happy to forget you in the morning.
You were on the wrong side of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (three or four times, but why rub it in?), not to mention on the wrong side of history. On the eve of the nation’s first state-sanctioned gay weddings, your website scarcely mentioned marriage of any type. Here’s what you’d have us believe is the big story of the past few days: “Romney Celebrates New Route 20 Connector at Centech Park.”
Embrace your irrelevance, Mitt. You’ve earned it.
But before you start fading into history like a modern George Wallace, please remember you still have the power to wound some very vulnerable people. Gay teens these days are still more likely to kill themselves than are their straight peers. You’d think Massachusetts, being famously progressive, would be somewhat safe. But a 2001 survey of high school students in your state found that 32.7 percent of the gay kids had attempted suicide in the past year, compared to 8.7 percent of the straight ones. Some seventeen percent of gay students reported skipping school because they didn’t dare show up.
These numbers, in case you’ve forgotten, come from your own Governor’s Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth.
While you were ranting to the nation about the horror of same-sex nuptials, that same commission was planning Youth Pride ’04, a picnic, rally, and prom for Boston’s gay kids. The kids really had something to celebrate this year, no thanks to you. It’s like a dream, Phil Biasizzo, 20, told me a few days beforehand, like something “that’s not really happening.”
I trust that your press secretary gave you my message when I called to ask about the commission. Seeing that you’re concerned about gay kids, I wanted to know how you thought your opposition to gay marriage would affect their well-being. You never called back.
Come on, governor, can’t you think of something to say? If you believe it’s good to help gay kids be proud of themselves, aren’t you saying they exist and they’re welcome just as they are? And if that’s true, then shouldn’t they get the same rights as everyone else, including the right to fall in love—maybe at your commission’s gay prom—and eventually marry?
Biasizzo says he has always intended to tie the knot. I wish I’d had the same hope he has. I might not have done so many stupid things for love, if I’d known I was working toward marriage. Check out Jonathan Rauch’s Gay Marriage, will you, especially the part where he says that keeping marriage from people forces them into endless adolescence. Young adults, straight ones, talk about marrying when they’re ready—what would you have gay ones do? Expect never to reach that point? “I wouldn’t care if it was big and expensive or small and intimate,” Biasizzo says of his longed-for wedding day. “Just as long as I make the right decision.”
Here’s the decision I hope you’ll make: Stand back and let liberty happen. Stop taking the side of those gay-bashers who crowd the halls of your legislature with their hateful posters and send kids like Biasizzo home shaken. Your buddies may be morose, but consider that for some of your citizens, these vows will mark the happiest, most sacred moment of their lives. And try to enjoy this week, OK? God willing, you’ll only make history once.