Again, it's time to stand fast against fear

Shannyn Moore

Several years can make a difference.

I attended the weeks of Anchorage Assembly testimony in what has been called the "Summer of Hate" over Ordinance 64.

Two contrasting moments are seared into my memory.

I watched an older man standing against the back wall of the Assembly chamber. He seemed uncomfortable. He was a Carhartt kind of guy: flannel shirt, scuffed boots, callused hands, the type who showers after work, not before. For him, "cross-dressing" would involve a suit and tie.

His late-20s son, who stood next to him, was not cut from the same rugged cloth. At least not as far as I could see. The man gave his son's arm a squeeze before the young man walked to the lectern. He talked about his struggles as a gay man; the discrimination and threats he'd experienced. He begged the Assembly members to pass basic civil rights protections for people like him.

During his testimony, the red-shirted opposition said horrible things among themselves about him. "Fairy" is the only one I can repeat here. Their behavior was at least as compelling an argument for the ordinance as any testimony.

I watched the father. He looked proud of his resolute son. Was he measuring the weight of a burden he could not share?

The next speaker was an African-American man in a bright red shirt. He talked about sin and abomination, using verses from the Bible that were, less than a century ago, used by others to justify discrimination against people like him.

He walked past me, and past Mr. Carhartt and his son. Mr. Carhartt caught the man by his red sleeve. In a low, almost sad voice he said, "I marched with Dr. King in the '60s for your right to be here and speak against my son."

The man walked on.

The Anchorage Assembly passed Ordinance 64. Mayor Dan Sullivan vetoed it.

Much has been written about Proposition 5 on our ballot Tuesday. Dueling ministers, dignitaries and testimonies have been a constant in your good morning newspaper. The One Anchorage Campaign has been deliberate and respectful. But as good as their ads and outreach have been, I truly believe this ballot initiative will be approved because of the courage of many average, regular folks.

For decades, men and women have stood fast against their fear and for their truth. They have rejected the pressure to lie about themselves and instead be who they are, in front of God and everyone. That act of bravery, to sit across the kitchen table from someone you love and tell them, "I'm gay," wondering if in the next moment their love may be conditional and absent, is humbling.

"Courage is fear that has said its prayers," wrote Karle Wilson Baker. If you ask people what they admire most in others, the top 10 qualities include telling the truth, doing the right thing even when it's hard, and using your strength to stand up for those who cannot.

Figuring out who you are, your beliefs, your standards and morals, is a process. If you're true to yourself, it's the hardest thing you can do, regardless of your sexuality.

The true campaign for tolerance has been fought on a personal level for many years -- men and women, choosing courage over fear, making the face of the LGBT community personal to all of us. I've watched their testimonies. Their strength in claiming their own worth has been awe-inspiring.

My initial reaction to Proposition 5 was hesitant. Civil rights on a ballot? How long would racial integration in the South have taken if decided by majority vote?

But Anchorage did go through the legislative process. The anti-discrimination ordinance was passed by an elected, governing body.

But Dan Sullivan didn't understand the courage it took for so many to share their private and often painful stories that summer. Was it hard for him to "come out" as another politician in a political family? To borrow a phrase: Sullivan is one of those people who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. Many times, we've witnessed his incapacity to relate to the struggles of others, but that veto of Ordinance 64 still stands as a monument to his lack of empathy.

When I vote on Tuesday, it will be for the protection of our LGBT brothers and sisters, and a new mayor who values their courage as much as I do.

Shannyn Moore can be heard weekdays from 6 to 9 p.m. on KOAN 1020 AM and 95.5 FM radio. Her weekly TV show can be seen Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. statewide on ABC affiliates KYUR Anchorage, KATN Fairbanks and KJUD Juneau.

Shannyn Moore