Testimony by JRH on Bill 18-482, Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 before the Committee on Public Service and the Judiciary on November 9, 2009.
I would first like to thank DC City Council Member David Catania and the nine co-sponsors of Bill 18-482 for introducing a bill that will amend the law and allow for same sex couples to marry in the District of Columbia.
When I first came out of the closet as a gay man to my parents there were many challenges, many of the same challenges every gay man has. Some of the challenges were personal, some involved acceptance, and still others involved my mothers religious beliefs. There were many things that my loving family didn’t understand, like why I would make this choice for my life. Certain things my family still doesn’t comprehend. However, the one thing that stuck with me for all these years is them sitting across the table from me and saying… “We just want you to get married and have a family.” I started to cry, and I looked my parents straight in the eye, with the tears dripping down my face and told them that I was still going to do that.
Back when I made this declaration to my parents it was not legal for me to marry the man I love anywhere in the United States. People were fighting for these equal rights, but this fight for equality was just becoming visible to me. I had no idea how hard of a fight it would be, because I grew up assuming that all men and women are created equal, that “separate but equal” was a thing of the past, a failed experiment that the men and women before me had finally fixed. I was sadly mistaken. The same failed and unequal laws were being applied to the LGBTQ community in the United States. I started seeing this and I felt defeated.
I was starting to feel at peace with who I was a couple of years ago. I had found a group of friends that loved and supported me; I had a good job, and had gotten past the feelings of confusion and hate because of who I was. While my family didn’t openly acknowledge who I was, they accepted me on a one on one basis. This was progress. Then one October evening, I decided to go out with a group of my supportive friends and I met a man who took my breath away. From the moment I saw this man I knew that no matter what, this man was going to be a very important part of my life. Over the next few months we grew very close; it became very rare that we would be out in public without each other. My friends and family were shocked to see me as happy as I was; I was simply a better person when he was around. I had fully accepted myself for who I was and that was freeing. As the summer ended the Doctor and I made the decision to leave Boston where we had been living and move down to DC. The Doctor had secured a job that he couldn’t pass up at a local university, and I had a job opportunity in the District as well.
The Saturday before the Doctor left Boston completely changed my world view. I had gone out for a few celebratory drinks with friends to mark an end to our time together in Boston and we decided to walk home. We were enjoying each others company when suddenly an innocent night was turned upside down. A white car pulled up and a few guys jumped out, one of them attacked me. He screamed “die faggot die,” as he kicked my head into the pavement. He ran off with his friends to his car, driving away, leaving me unconscious in the middle of the street. A witness pulled up, making sure on-coming cars wouldn’t run me over. My friends watched, tears welling up, as they loaded me into the ambulance. I don’t remember anything. I woke up in the hospital. I turned to see my friend in the other bed, also a victim of this hate, still bleeding from his scalp. My own head was throbbing. Even as the world came into focus, I was still confused.
The Doctor was out of town this weekend, yet he was still the first one to make it to the hospital to see me after this horrific attack, except the Doctor had to fight to get into the hospital to see his friends because he was not family and we were not married. This was another figurative blow to the head.
The Doctor was there with me through the recovery. The Doctor was there with me through the nightmares. He slept next to me even when I would wake up punching and screaming as I relived the attack. The Doctor was there with me for the Doctor appointments, and cleaned my wounds, some of which were very gross. The Doctor was there with me to get my mind off of things when I needed to be thinking about something happy all I had to do was look him in the face and I knew he was the one I could count on. The Doctor was the one sitting next to me at the trial, when the man who attacked me pled guilty and got off with no jail time, and the Doctor was the one standing next to me as I spoke out against the violence and the judge who allowed this man his freedom. I knew very early on that this was the man I was going to marry. This strong man who was always there for me was the man that I was going to spend the rest of my life with.
Two years after I met the Doctor, on the night before the Equality March in DC, I proposed to the Doctor and we are now engaged. On October 10, 2009 we made a commitment to each other, and in 2010 we want to be able to get married in Washington DC and we want many other loving couples to follow.
Equality is never something I though I would have to fight for but it is and this Bill is one of many steps in the right direction for all citizens of the United States, straight, gay, bisexual, or questioning. We all deserve to be treated equally and we all have a right to marry those we love. I urge the City Council to pass this bill and set an example for all to follow.