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Protecting the Bill of Rights in Utah since 1958

My Liberation Is Bound With Yours

19 February 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist

A couple of newsletters ago, I discussed the importance of recognizing the interdependence of everyone’s rights.  I ended my thoughts with this quote by Lila Watson, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.  But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

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Cassie-bw-cropThe President’s Corner

A couple of newsletters ago, I discussed the importance of recognizing the interdependence of everyone’s rights.  I ended my thoughts with this quote by Lila Watson, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.  But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”  As a straight woman my liberation is bound with the liberation of gay and lesbian couples fighting for the right to marry and to have their legal marriages recognized.  When people are able to be who they are, and are valued for who they are, they are able to be their best.  When people are their best, they give their best to the world, and I (and you) personally benefit.   I have been reminded of this often in the last month. 

 This week I was writing a letter of recommendation for a bright, kind, and passionate student who is gay.  He is an outstanding student; however, his first year college grades were mediocre.  He was closeted and struggling with negative messages he was receiving from his community about gay people.  After coming out, he found places where he was valued for who he was.  Thereafter, he earned exceptional grades including a 4.0 in his major.  This is not this student’s story alone; I have seen this story play out over and over.  When people are marginalized there are costs and when they are valued there are benefits, and not for them alone.  This student, at his best, is committed to improving the world that I live in.  Currently he is interning at the Rape Recovery Center.  Who in my life, or in your life, will benefit from him being his best? 

 When Judge Shelby found Amendment 3 to be unconstitutional, several important people in my life were able to get married.  I was elated to get to share this joy with them.  Many of them felt that they and their families were being validated.  One exceptionally insightful boy, Riley, said that it felt like “fireworks bursting in my heart.”  When his moms asked later why this was, he said that he felt like his family was being valued.  When he went to school, friends and teachers congratulated him.  His younger brother talked about the other side of this experience; after Herbert announced that he would not recognize his moms’ marriage, this young boy’s peers at school started calling his family “gross.”  Our children are watching us and their actions mirror ours.  As Riley so eloquently put it, “Governor Herbert…says he wants to ‘protect families.’ But I want to tell him that my family deserves protection, too.”   By recognizing their marriage, we validate their family, and we model for our children how to treat others with respect and kindness.  This is the kind of world that I and my children benefit from living in.  

 My children also benefit when I am able to provide love and protection for them.  My partner and I have taken steps to ensure this, even in our absence, by designating our close friends, a lesbian couple, to be our children’s guardians should we become incapacitated.  Their legal right to parent our children could be questioned by the state, just as one of them has had her legal right to parent her own children denied because she cannot adopt them without being married.  Now they are married and it is time to grant her full rights to parent her children.  It is well established in research that children raised by lesbian and gay parents are as emotionally and psychologically healthy as their peers raised by heterosexual parents (see for example, Amlie, & Ytteroy, 2002; Stacey & Biblarz, 2001).   However, research has also found that children raised by lesbian parents exhibit more empathy than children raised by heterosexual parents (Fitzgerald, 1999; Miller, 1992; Saffron, 1998) in part because they tend to teach their children about tolerance even when people are not tolerant of them (Litovich & Langhout, 2004). My friends do just this.  I have much to learn from them about how to love when it isn’t the obvious response.  I want my children to grow up in their world where there is more empathy and love not less. 

 To lesbian and gay Utahns I say, my liberation is bound with yours.  To straight Utahns, let us work together to ensure that all Utah families are valued, recognized, and legally protected.   

Cathleen Power, ACLU of Utah President of the Board of Directors

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