As the presidential contest comes to a rolling boil, my mom and I have to tread carefully in every conversation. She is a staunch Republican, a Fox News junkie and the widow of a Navy commander. I have always voted the liberal ticket; I'm an NPR listener and a New York Times subscriber. Our votes will cancel each other out.
In Mom's view, Obama is a socialist who will soon have Big Government controlling everything from the car industry to what my kids eat in the school cafeteria. In my view, Obama is the kind of thoughtful, compassionate leader who I want representing my country in the world. I disagree with Romney on so many points -- starting with women's issues -- that my choice is clear.
Mom and I can (almost) joke about our political differences at this point. We love each other, and we both know there's no changing the other one's mind. But when Obama became the first president in office to declare his support for same-sex marriage, Mom shocked me silly.
"Well," she said, "I don't really see what's wrong with it. Why shouldn't gays be allowed to marry?"
Truly, I nearly choked on my dinner.
Now that I've had a chance to mull things over, though, I have realized that, if President Obama is brave enough to express that view, and if my own conservative mother is willing to speak up about her beliefs, it's high time for me to do the same, despite my many conservative friends and family members.
So here goes: I believe, with all my heart, that same-sex couples have the right to love one another and to show that love by getting married if they so choose. Furthermore, I believe that those couples should have the same legal rights as any other "straight" married couple. The reason is obvious: a marriage where any two people declare love, devotion, hard work, and loyalty between one another for a lifetime deserves to be honored legally, as well as profoundly respected.
Most people who read my work won't be surprised by my support of gay marriage. After all, I'm a writer, and that (sort of) makes me an artist. And artists are, by and large, liberals, right? So why even bother to spout off something that people could already guess I believed, if they knew me or my writing at all, especially in a public forum? After all, I am not typically a political writer. I am a behind-the-scenes sort of volunteer, helping out at schools, libraries, and occasional town events. The rest of the time, I'm either putting on my pants to go to work or passionately writing essays and novels whether I sell them or not.
But this election is one of the most important in our nation's history. All of us, no matter who we are or what we believe, must make our voices heard. From this moment on, I am determined to bring out my mighty pen and leave my political scratchings in the public arena.
If you haven't done it yet, get out there, all of you writers and artists and musicians and dancers. Devote yourselves to your craft and live for your art, yes. But speak your mind and make your politics known. Put up a sign on your front lawn, argue your beliefs with family and friends, get out and vote, and be a living example of what it means to be active in civic life.