Thursday, November 09, 2006

Wise Words from Fair Wisconsin

This speech was posted by Fair Wisconsin, the group leading the charge to defeat the so-called marriage amendment.

Wise words, though I'm still ashamed of living here.


My friends, tonight we came up short in our struggle.

So many of you gave everything you had.

You pounded the pavements.

You emptied your wallets.

You forced yourselves to go up to the doors of strangers and ask them how they feel about something many of them had never discussed so openly before.

Many of you came out to more people than you wanted to because you knew telling your personal story was one of the best ways to change people’s minds.

Some of you have been giving this your all for almost three entire years. And many of us have made many personal sacrifices to make this campaign a top priority.

What I am most proud of most of all is how all of us dared to hope.

And we must not lose this hope and we cannot ignore what we have accomplished.

Because despite the results I still believe in a fair Wisconsin. I refuse to stop believing.

This debate was forced on us at a time and a place not of our choosing.

This fight against the amendment was never just about what happened today. All of us committed to a long-term struggle for equality and fairness for everyone. We cannot give up on Wisconsin, and there’s good reason not to.

We know for certain that many of the same people who voted for this amendment today are the very same people who will support equality for gay families within the next 5 or 10 years. That change might not have been on the timeline forced on us by our opponents, but we cannot ignore the fact that we have laid the foundation for long-term change in Wisconsin. Because of our work, more people in this state than ever before understand that gay families exist in this state and discrimination hurts them.

We may not have won the election, but there were so many victories along the way. We achieved many things that have drastically altered attitudes about gay people, gay families, and the way we do politics around this issue. We transformed a “gay rights” issue and made it a Wisconsin issue.

Our accomplishments are not in vain.

Two and a half years ago, it was unfathomable to most people, including myself, that we could wage a strong fight against the ban.

People said we couldn’t raise enough money. But we raised over $5 million from over 12,000 people to help us communicate with the people of this state.

People said we couldn’t recruit the volunteers necessary, but over 10,000 of you exploded that myth from day one.

They said elected leaders wouldn’t stand with us, and if they did, voters would reject them. But our leaders challenged that notion in fact, leaders like Gov. Doyle never wavered in his opposition to the amendment whether at a UAW rally or editorial board meetings in Baraboo.

Again and again, we proved the cynics wrong.

I know we have changed something fundamental because I saw it unfold in our offices every week of this campaign.

When I saw a standing-room only crowd of Fair Wisconsin supporters sitting in a church basement in Wausau back in March, I knew we were making change.

When I saw an ironworker stop by our office to take literature back to his local labor union because they had taken a position against the amendment, I knew we were making change.

When I saw clergy in their collars in Appleton explaining why the teachings of Jesus compel them to speak out, I knew were making change.

When I saw business leaders move from expressing private concerns to issuing press releases, I knew we were making change.

We set a high bar for ourselves and met it. This changed our campaign but it also changed the way people view gay families and gay issues in this state.

We transformed this so-called wedge issue into an issue that united Wisconsinites of all backrounds. We have made equality and fairness for gay Wisconsinites something that is embraced by many organizations, leaders, and average citizens.

Thank you to the thousands of gay and lesbian people who did not ask for this fight, who did not want to become poster children. You chose to interrupt your lives so that one day our children will know a world without discrimination.

You bravely stepped up to put your lives on display.

Thank you to all of you who like me aren’t gay but made this issue your own. Thousands of you refused to stand by silently while your friends, families, and citizens we will never meet were attacked with this amendment.

Together, all of us stood shoulder to shoulder—grandmothers, farmers, ministers, school teachers, and many, many more of us from all walks of life.

And although we didn’t win we ran a historic effort that changed Wisconsin.

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