On Monday, we resumed our journey and drove down to Gouverneur to meet with the Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava in her district office. Dan Spink, our wonderful host from Canton, led the way to the meeting. Scozzafava is one of only four Republican legislators who have recently voted for marriage equality in New York. We wanted to thank the Assemblywoman for her courageous stance and support. Due to scheduling conflicts, we met with her staff.
On the way to the meeting, as we watched miles and miles of fields and pastures roll by, I wondered how someone could make an informed decision about what’s right in such a remote locale where conversations about LGBT equality seldom happen. We’ve been visiting with gay and lesbian people all along our trip. Not surprisingly, it is in rural areas like the North Country where marriage inequality hits the hardest and its dire consequences become most self-evident. When you live in welcoming and affirming communities (which tend to be urban and politically more liberal), the brunt of legal discrimination is couched in sympathetic rhetoric and a sense of progress. In places with hostile faith environments and without supportive networks, however, it could be life-saving for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families to fall back on the letter of the law. Unfortunately, the marriage laws work against them. One can argue that politicians representing areas such as Northern New York should be at the forefront of the movement for marriage equality since it would immediately and fully protect some of their most vulnerable constituents.
During our PFLAG/PRISM picnic in Canton we met a former classmate of the Assemblywoman Scozzafava who met with her prior to the vote to explain the significance of this bill and what it would mean for him to be granted the legal protections and responsibilities of marriage. He also helped clarify the inequity between civil unions and marriage. It turns out that conversation among old friends helped determine the Assemblywoman’s position on this issue. It only further goes to prove the importance of being out and proud in one’s community no matter how challenging it might be. It is easy to pass laws against “those people” but it is nearly impossible to discriminate against people you know, your neighbors and friends.
We looked forward to participating in another county fair later in the day, but since it had rained for several days and over the weekend, the fair was not yet open. So we took a moment to write thank you notes for our supporters who have donated to the Right to Marry campaign thus far. All financial contributions make our educational journey possible. So look for some North Country love coming your way! And if you have not yet had a chance to donate to this important effort, please, do so on our website. Tonight we go on to our next destination, Watertown, or H2O-town as we’ve come to call it amongst ourselves.
Onwards, Alexey Bulokhov