Sometimes kids learn more when they're not in school than when they are. As parents, we just hope they're learning the right things. Next Tuesday, Oct. 22, is going to be one of those times and an opportunity to learn some important lessons about those right things.
That's because thousands of people will be gathering in our state capital for the March on Springfield for Marriage Equality (www.marchonspringfield.org). Beth and I will be taking our daughters out of school that day in order to attend and participate in this important and historic event. I hope you'll consider joining us.
Understandably, many people attending the march will be members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) community. This is to be expected as these are the exact people who have faced legally-sanctioned discrimination essentially everywhere, essentially forever. They want to be treated like everyone else, and that includes how they and their relationships are recognized under the law (including both the rights and responsibilities that go along with that).
At the same time, our legislature's ultimate outcome on this issue will say a lot more about the actions, or lack of action, on the part of those of us who are heterosexuals. As I look at it, there is a very compelling straight case for "gay marriage."
Here in Oak Park, we spend considerable time, energy, and resources supporting and enhancing the diversity of our community. We do this because we understand that our unique individual differences, taken together, are one of our community's greatest strengths. And we recognize that successful diversity requires intentional engagement and action by all people and groups, both majority and minority, across elements of race, gender, socioeconomic status, and every other differentiating characteristic.
So we've chosen to live in a neighborhood of people deeply committed to the value of difference and the importance of fundamental equity. And we are all better off for it. But what lessons are those of us in the heterosexual majority really teaching our children if we continue to simply stand back and knowingly allow our gay and lesbian friends and neighbors to continue to pay more than their fair share of taxes, continue to be excluded from participating in spousal social security and veterans' benefits, and continue to be denied fundamental family and employment protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
When I explained these differences in treatment to my 10-year-old, she simply said, "Well that's not fair; somebody should do something about that." She's right. And we are all that "somebody."
I have incredible respect for those who have fought for civil rights in past generations. And clearly this march will require nothing like the courage of those who stood up to the teargas, billy clubs, fire hoses, and white hoods in Selma in 1965. But it is a reminder that the time and the place to do the right thing is always and everywhere. That is a lesson that we should be eager to share with our children.
Next Tuesday in Springfield is our chance to do just that. Won't you join us?
David Pope is the past Oak Park village president.