Newsgroups: soc.motss
From: Tim Pierce 
Subject: Life During Wartime
Date: Thu, 18 Apr 1996 23:35:53 GMT

    [ Background: SB 1773 is the senate bill which would declare
      same-sex marriage to be against the public policy of
      Illinois and would deny recognition of same-sex marriages
      performed outside of the state.  It is the Illinois
      Christian Coalition's response to Baehr v. Lewin.  The bill
      has passed the Senate and is now in committee in the
      House. ]

Wednesday, April 17 was the lobby day for the No on SB 1773
Coalition.  Up at six in the morning, bleary-eyed and
bushy-tailed, to shower shave and breakfast before pouring
ourselves (myself and Corrie, my partner in crime) into a bus
bound for the state capitol at 7:30, armed with 10,000 petitions
decrying the anti-marriage bill.

We arrived in Springfield at about 12:15 and hauled the crates of
petitions over to the statehouse.  There's something wonderful
about that, that the petitions were so numerous we needed to carry
them in *crates*.  It is uplifting, in an odd and delightful way,
to deliver opinion in a box.  We took them first to a conference
room where we were briefed on lobbying strategies by NOW and ACLU
staffers and by state Senator John Cullerton, who is possibly our
strongest ally in the state senate.

Then we went to a newsroom for a press conference to express our
opposition to SB 1773.  A MCC minister read a statement,
denouncing the bill as religious-political extremism under the
guise of false Christianity, signed by more than sixty clergy
across the state.  A PFLAG mom stepped up and gave a *fabulous*
speech (hi, Emily!) demanding the same rights for her lesbian
daughter as for her seven straight children.

After the press conference, everyone took a handful of petitions
and trooped down to deliver them at Governor Edgar's office.  The
guards seemed a bit alarmed upon the appearance of a hundred
queers in suits and ties, each bearing a collection of petitions
and demanding an audience with the Governor, but they did permit
us to deliver them, two people at a time.  Then we did the same
with the Speaker of the House, where they were a little more
generous: groups of five, probably owing to the reduced size of
the hall.

By now it was close to two o'clock, and we were only just starting
the lobbying process.  Our legal eagles led us to the door of the
House chamber, where we filled out our little business cards with
the name of our state representative and presented them to a

It was at this point that the importance of the lobby day's timing
became clear.  Wednesday was also the scheduled lobby day for the
AFL-CIO, for Planned Parenthood, and for NOW.  The halls were
filled with young women in smart business suits, truckers and mill
hands in union caps, nervous teenagers carefully arranged in
sweaters, slacks and skirts, and dykes and faggots gloriously
decked out in every uniform from Wall Street to Queer Nation.  It
would be an exaggeration to say that the halls were "packed," but
it was certainly a crowded and a chaotic place.  The whole
building was brimming with energy, and different interest groups
were gleefully slapping stickers and pins on each other in order
to inflate visibility.

Our own representative, Barbara Flynn Currie, was almost
disappointingly easy to speak to.  I was aware of her progressive
voting record, but still I was not prepared for the enthusiastic
"I'm voting NO!" I received when we brought up SB 1773.  With
little else to say, Corrie and I fumbled out some words of thanks
and presented her with the stack of petitions collected from
members of our district.  (Only today, I realized that my biggest
mistake of the day was in forgetting that we had two
representatives, and so I did not even try to speak with Charles
Morrow.  It was a terribly stupid thing to do.)

I spent much of the rest of the afternoon milling around the hall,
asking our professional lobbyists and congressional aides about
the legislative process, and being introduced to political
movers-and-shakers.  In fact, it impressed me at just how much of
the lobbying process is about networking.  Of course I realize
that much of politics is made on the basis of personal
connections, but only after the fourth introduction I was given to
legislators and lobbyists did I realize how much groundwork was
being laid.

Around three-thirty -- after an unsuccessful attempt to meet and
thank our state Senator (one of the few who voted against the bill
in the Senate and, bless her heart, spoke out against it on the
floor), and a failed attempt to locate and annoy the bill's
sponsor in the House -- Corrie and I decided to visit the bill's
original sponsor, Senator Peter Fitzgerald.  (The bill passed the
Senate several weeks ago and we had no hope of changing his mind,
but at the very least we could remind him that he won't be able to
forget about this bill, that it is going to continue to haunt him
and he is going to have to continue to answer for his pandering to
the right wing.)  Senator Fitzgerald was between committee
meetings and not in his office, so we decided to leave a note for
him instead.  As I was writing, I noticed a harried-looking man of
the senator's approximate description dart down the hall and into
his office.  I asked his secretary whether that was indeed him,
and she asked us to wait a moment while she spoke with him.  After
a few minutes she came out of his office, held up two fingers, and
mouthed the words, "Two minutes."

So that was how Corrie and I came to find ourselves sitting in the
office and chatting away with the man who had smilingly sold us
down the river.  I had not really expected this opportunity --
Senator Peter Fitzgerald has risen to something of mythical status
among our group in the last few months -- and much of my
concentration was focused on remaining coherent and articulate.  I
explained that, as a married man, I was concerned about the
potential effect of SB 1773 on my own family.  He asked, somewhat
smirkingly, whether I was in a same-sex marriage; I responded that
no, I'm married to a woman, and he looked puzzled.  I told him
that it bothered me that the legislature would so eagerly vote to
deny recognition to a particular kind of marriage, because it
opens the possibility that a future assembly might decide to deny
recognition to an interfaith marriage -- such as my own.  He
insisted that there was no danger of that happening.  I asked what
protections there were to guard against it.  What can you offer
me, I asked, to protect my family against such a vote?  He said
that it would be unconstitutional to put together such a law, and
that he had been careful to draft SB 1773 in such a way as to
ensure its constitutionality.  (It's interesting, the way he said
that: he had to take great care to word the law in order to avoid
clashes with the Constitution.  Another legislator might have
wondered about the ramifications of that.)

At this point it becomes difficult to remember the details of the
conversation, for at this point I made my other biggest mistake of
the day.  Senator Fitzgerald kept changing the subject.  Each time
I asked a question or raised a point, he would address a different
point, or ask a different question.  I let him lead the debate,
and that was a bad mistake.  I was focused too hard on being able
to respond to each individual question, and in doing so I lost
control over the general direction of the argument, and he spent
the whole time dancing around the real issue, arguing from
sound-bites and rhetorical flash.  I should have expected it; the
hallmark of this battle, all the way down the line, has been an
abiding terror on the part of conservative politicians of having
actually to discuss the issues, and a relentless avoidance of
genuine debate.  But I wasn't truly expecting it, and did a poor
job of keeping the discussion on target.

I think I did well despite this tactical error.  Nearly every
point he raised I was able to counter, and he did not have many
real points to address in the first place.  Our voices rose a lot;
a couple of times, nearly shouting, he said something very close
to this: "The bottom line is that every bill that comes through
here has a winner and a loser.  Your problem is that right now
you're losing!  That's all!  You just don't have the political
power to fight back!"  Illuminating, to say the least.  The most
difficult moment I had was arguing the details of the equal
protection guarantee in the Constitution, since I am not familiar
with the specific wording of this amendment.  It helped that when
I started to have trouble, Corrie -- a dedicated Libertarian --
would take up the cudgel and hit him with a strict civil-liberties

In one of my favorite moments, Senator Fitzgerald presented me
with the old chestnut about the primary purpose of marriage being
procreation, and I pointed out that it just couldn't be so: his
own bill states that first cousins will be permitted to marry only
if they are unable to reproduce.  If reproduction were the reason
for marriage, this clause contradicted that claim directly.  This
caught him entirely off-guard, and he broke off in mid-sentence,
staring at me in disbelief.  After a few seconds he recovered, and
started claiming that it was an irrelevant point because
legislation is made "on a macro level, not on a micro level,"
another point I should have pursued and did not.  But that moment,
that tiny interval where I had clearly scored and had led him into
a corner he had not expected to find, was absolutely a triumphant
moment.  At that instant I knew that the entire trip had been
worth it.

He gave us about a half-hour of his time (the original two-minute
deadline having long since dissolved) and I was able to keep
pressing him on the subject of what protection he could offer my
family -- my traditional, nuclear marriage -- against a vote like
this one.  What would prevent a future legislature, I asked, from
deciding that interfaith marriages violate Illinois public policy,
and voting my marriage right out of existence?  What protection
exists to prevent that fate from befalling my family?  The only
answer he could offer: "Majority rule."  This conversation
certainly gave me a lot of grist for a follow-up letter.

I said earlier that we didn't expect to convince Senator
Fitzgerald of anything.  But I think we did convince him of
something: this issue isn't going to go away soon.  That was worth
something.  Corrie and I left his office and, realizing that we
were twenty minutes late for our bus back to Chicago, broke into a
run to get back to it.  (Everyone was afraid that we'd been
captured and tortured by the right-wingers; they were relieved to
learn that we were alive, and amazed to find out that we'd been
talking to Fitzgerald the entire time.)

I hate this.  This war, this goddamned war.  For the last three
months, I have spent almost every moment of my free time fighting:
writing letters, essays, speeches; calling lobbyists, aides,
legislators; distributing and collecting petitions, scheduling
meetings, talking to strategists.  It has been exhausting, and I
have neglected not only my personal life but my job and the .con
organizing.  And for what: so I can fight a bill which isn't even
likely to stand up under constitutional scrutiny in the first
place?  All I want at this point is to have my life back.  I want
the legislative session to end, and I almost don't care which way
the vote goes.  I want to return to a reasonable, moderate, tame
schedule of educating and organizing, not this hideous dead heat
of a political sprint.  But I could hardly stop if I tried.

Yesterday was the first day since January that gave me cause to
feel upbeat about this battle -- only for a moment, but a moment
of immeasurable importance to me.  It's a start.

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