“If You Cannot Vote for My Equality, Then Please Do Not Vote.”
I had the pleasure of spending part of last week in New York City at dot429′s StraightTalk 2012 conference. At which, the emotional and intellectual highlight of the event was the LGBT Politics panel featuring Pennsylvania’s first LGBT member of Congress Brian Simms, legendary activist David Mixner, San Francisco AIDs Foundation President Neil Giuliano, and LPAC Chair Sarah Schmidt.
And while all four of the above displayed a warm brilliance, I’d like to talk about something Schmidt said during that hour that I can honestly say I’ve never heard somebody offer up before.
Schmidt spoke to the room about her neighbors and friends who tell her that while they love Sarah, her wife and their children, they just cannot bring themselves to vote for Barack Obama and the Democratic ticket. Even with the real world life experience of knowing a gay family, and witnessing firsthand the love produced from within one, these family members, neighbors, friends, colleagues and loved ones have told Sarah that they just cannot bring themselves to vote against their beliefs, whether they be moral, political or religious.
It was a refrain that many LGBT people can relate to, I’m sure. So what advice, what sage wisdom does Sarah offer these immovable voters about election day?
“If you cannot vote for my equality, then please do not vote.”
The room went silent.
Schmidt elaborated, “If you cannot bring yourself to vote for me, to cast a vote that would see me equal to you, then please do not vote at all.”
Maybe it’s because my adolescent years coincided with Bill Clinton talking to young people on MTV about the power and necessity of casting your ballot (along with his underwear preference, natch) or that the long shadow from the infamous Vote or Die campaign still blacks out my cognitive abilities when it comes to critical election thinking, but I had honestly never even considered the fact that I could ask somebody to not vote.
But she’s absolutely right, and her advice is sound, so I offer it to all of you today.
If your parents, your grandparents, your friends cannot bring themselves to cast a vote that would make you equal under the eyes of the law, then please ask them to stay at home and not vote at all this election day. It really is that simple. One need not betray their moral compass, their religious ideology, or their loved ones. Election day doesn’t have to be a rock-and-a-hard-place ethical booby-trap for anybody out there. If you can’t vote for my equality, then please simply do not vote.
Many thanks to dot429, all four StraightTalk LGBT Politics panelists, and Ms. Schmidt in particular for a passionate and enlightening conversation.