During yesterday's win for marriage equality in the Maine House, Maine Rep. Sheryl Briggs revealed a secret which was overshadowed by the victory.
Her daughter is a lesbian. And after 15 years of knowing, she still regarded her daughter’s sexual orientation as a choice.
She announced she had made a wrenching decision.
“Blame it on my upbringing, or the good book, but the deepest part of my soul tells me that this is wrong,” Briggs said in regards to the marriage equality bill. “I can’t change how I feel. These feelings run very deep. I have kept this secret within me for 15 years, but because of who I am, and where I am today, and as a member of this legislative body, ethically, it is my duty, and my responsibility, to publicly say to my daughter, that I do not support her way of life."
”I have no choice. I have to hit that button,” Briggs said.
She voted against her own daughter's rights.
I watched stunned as the live stream continued to play the other representative's testimony, but I didn't really listen. Rep. Brigg's comments hit a nerve in me.
I was raised in a fundamental, Christian home. We were missionaries. We traveled the world preaching the "good word." And yes, during that whole time, I knew I was gay.
I was finally brave enough to come out when I was 18, but because of my parents' denial, I had to come out three more times. It wasn't until I told them I wasn't a Christian, and yes, still gay, that the truth finally hit home for them.
They didn't handle it very well. But years after my first coming out, during which we almost lost touch altogether, my parents are slowly able to talk about it. They'll never approve. But they'll accept it.
I'll be blunt. I'm glad Rep. Briggs is not my mother. My mother hasn't lied to me. Rep. Briggs lied to support her vote.
She wants us to excuse her vote for her upbringing and/or because of the Bible. But she has been told, constantly, that this vote has nothing to do with her religion but her country. And that the law of her country demands that no discrimination or religious indoctrination can exist in the public sphere in which the government governs.
We are not a theocracy. We are a republic. And every voice counts.
Rep. Briggs not only failed her daughter and her voice. She failed her job. And refused to listen. Some people would call her a bigot. I do not. A bigot acts out of blind hate. Rep. Briggs has acted out of stubborn, self-imposed ignorance, denying the facts laid out before her. And I don't know if that is worse.
She wants us to excuse her because it is her "ethical" duty to take on the responsibility of . . . what? Denying people their rights? Calling people's innate characteristics a "choice"?
Her ethical duty as a legislator is to create law that upholds the constitution which protects all citizens. But she failed her job. And she failed her daughter.
My mother might have done the same if she were in Rep. Briggs position. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised. Which is why I have worked hard these past 13 plus years on constantly talking to her and showing her how I live, so she won't have the choice to make her assumptions about me in ignorance. If she were to vote as Rep. Briggs had done, it would be a deep betrayal.
But my mother doesn't want to be a legislator. She hasn't spent tons of money on a campaign and worked hard to be a Representative. And she hasn't taken an oath to uphold the constitution.
Rep. Briggs has.
It is my ethical duty to hold her responsible. And she has failed.