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franklin county times

Marriage labeled me a liberal

By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Oct. 17, 2004
Not long after I became editor of my weekly hometown newspaper in Arkansas, I was given a label.
A friend of mine with whom I graduated from high school was getting married. She sent her engagement announcement to her hometown paper along with a picture of her and her fianc, some guy she met out in California.
Well, a few people freaked out when they saw the couple's picture in the paper. It wasn't because they were ugly, or naked or anything. They both looked like happy soap opera stars.
But, she was black and he was white.
One particular woman angrily spoke out and said it was just wrong. She suggested I could have been more considerate to people like her by running the engagement announcement without the photograph. That way she would have still been in the dark and she would have been happy.
I don't think the families of the lovebirds would have thought I was being considerate if I ditched the picture.
I told the woman I had upset that I didn't see anything wrong with these two people wanting to get married, but I thought there was something wrong with her if she thought it was any of her business.
For some reason that upset her even more. Right away she confessed to being a conservative and a Christian, then she called me a "liberal."
The word didn't hurt, but the way this conservative Christian woman said it with so much fear and hate in her voice did sting a little. It was like an old horror movie when the wide-eyed woman points her shaky finger at the dude in the cape and hisses … "Vampire."
That was in the late 1980s. A lot has happened since then. I've been called all kinds of interesting things and if I answered to all of them being liberal would be the least of my problems.
Eventually I embraced the label because all the "liberals" I knew were people who believed everybody should have the same rights they do. The "conservatives" I hung around with were people who believed everybody should be like them.
What the heck, I'm so liberal I love
conservatives.
Defining marriage
I've seen a lot of marriages between men and women in my life, many of them were unconventional to put it mildly, some were downright weird, but none of them were a threat to me.
On Nov. 2 we will have a chance to define marriage as only between a man and a woman and to outlaw same-sex marriage in Mississippi when we vote, and I don't know why. Arkansas and several other states will do the same thing that day.
I don't think telling people who they can and cannot marry should be on a ballot, like referendums for gambling or prostitution. Marriage is personal, which makes it a federal concern in my opinion. It's a civil rights issue, or at least it used to be.
Only about 20 years before the scandalous engagement announcement of my friend ran in our hometown paper, inter-racial marriages were not recognized in all states. It took a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1967 to change that.
My favorite part of the National Anthem is when we claim to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. But I don't feel like we are free, or brave, as long as we are afraid to allow people to love who they want, and to make a lifetime commitment to each other, openly, honestly and legally.
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail sgillespie@themeridianstar.com.

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