Thursday, March 17, 2011

PFLAG Mom Annette Gross Speaks Out on Marriage Discrimination in Indiana

Welcome guest blogger Annette Gross, of PFLAG Indianapolis:

On Monday, March 14th the Indianapolis GLBT community and straight allies gathered at the Indiana Statehouse to oppose HJR-6 (the Marriage Discrimination Amendment). This bill would enshrine discrimination into the State Constitution by saying: "Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana."

As if this isn't bad enough, the second sentence reads: "A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized." This second sentence means that civil unions or domestic partnerships would also not be allowed, which not only would impact GLBT couples but unmarried heterosexual couples as well. This sentence is vague at best, and I don't think anyone knows what the ramifications of this would really be.

I feel very strongly about HJR-6 and what it would do to GLBT Hoosiers. So I asked the people at Indiana Equality and Rally for Equality, who coordinated the rally, if I could volunteer to work with them and help put this event together. They agreed and my job was to reach out to different groups and organizations to inform them about the rally. And when the organizers began putting their list of speakers together, I asked them if a PFLAG parent could speak. Of course they said yes, and I volunteered to represent PFLAG as a speaker.

As I wrote my speech, I decided that I did not want to talk about marriage. I wanted to reach out to the parents in the audience and let them know that our kids are no different from theirs. I wanted them to know that we have the same goals and desires for our children as they do for theirs. When I finished writing my speech, I read it aloud to practice. As I read it, I became overwhelmed and began to cry. I hoped this would not happen the day of the rally. I also worried that I would be terribly nervous and freeze up, but I tried to put that out of my head.

The Rally for Equality was scheduled to begin at noon. Despite the cold weather, a crowd of about 500 was in attendance. I arrived with another PFLAG mom and noticed that there were not that many people there yet. But eventually people began arriving and pretty soon the area on the south side of the Statehouse was packed. There were also quite a few PFLAG moms there, some with their children. Yesterday Rally for Equality organized a sign-making party, so there were many wonderful signs in the audience. And to my surprise, there were no protesters.

A little after noon, Patrick Roth, the emcee of the event, introduced himself, his husband and their two daughters. He also introduced the chant of the day "Nix to Six" - he got the crowd chanting and they became quite energized! He then introduced the speakers. I was standing on the steps, waiting for my turn to speak. I am very angry about this proposed bill and what the legislators are trying to do, and this helped keep me from being nervous. I really wanted to get my message across to the crowd.

Finally it was my turn to speak. As I read from my notes, I felt the energy and approval of the crowd. It was a wonderful experience to be able to tell everyone what PFLAG does and that we will fight for our children’s rights. I felt proud to be able to represent Indianapolis PFLAG at the rally.

Now I'd like to share my speech with you. I do hope it made an impact today.

My name is Annette Gross and I’m a PFLAG mom. PFLAG stand for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. We are part of a national organization and we offer support and education to parents and families of GLBT children. We also engage in advocacy to ensure that our GLBT children are treated with fairness and respect. I joined PFLAG eleven years ago because I have a gay son. I met other parents who were just like me, and eventually I got involved in advocacy. That’s why I am here today.

I want to tell you that the Marriage Discrimination Amendment is about more than gay marriage. It will strip away important rights for unmarried couples and their families that will leave them vulnerable to future discrimination without any legal remedy. Their future access to benefits that we all take for granted will be compromised, including health benefits and other legal protections for them and their families.

The possibility of the passage of HJR-6 makes us PFLAG parents very angry. We feel that this amendment is a direct attack on our children and we will not stand for it! The legislators who propose this bill are targeting one group of people and treating them as second-class citizens. In Indiana, it is legal to discriminate against GLBT people. GLBT children are bullied every day and have a high rate of suicide. I’ve met many young people whose parents have thrown them out because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. If this bill is passed, it will prove to young GLBT Hoosiers that their state doesn’t really care about them. It will encourage more bullying and more negative health outcomes for our children.

Our job as parents is to protect our children. Who among us doesn’t want the best for their children? Who doesn’t want to see their child happy and secure? This bill will threaten the health and well-being of our kids. As parents and grandparents, I hope you will have compassion and realize that our children are the same as yours. They want to build a life, raise a family and be able to earn a good living, just like your children do. I hope you understand that this bill is hurtful and discriminatory; it will do nothing but cause pain to our families. Stand with us today and let the legislators who voted for HJR-6 know that you do not agree with them. Talk to your friends and families and educate them. And let me tell you – as PFLAG parents we will do everything in our power to protect our GLBT children and fight this malicious bill.

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