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The Day My Boss Came Out For Gay Marriage

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Let me take you to a place and time where our cell phones were not yet smart, Justin Timberlake was about to bring the sexy back, the junior senator from Illinois was beginning his incredible journey to the presidency, and, in my view, the citizens of the great state of Wisconsin were about to make a grave error by writing discrimination into our state constitution. It was the spring of 2006 and U.S. Senator Russ Feingold announced in Paddock Lake, WI his clear and unequivocal support for marriage equality. Paddock Lake is a small village in a rural part of Kenosha County in southeastern Wisconsin and not necessarily a hot bed for the pro-gay marriage movement. Senator Feingold, as part of his pledge to the citizens of Wisconsin, held a town hall meeting each year in all of Wisconsin's 72 counties. It was during his town hall meeting in Paddock Lake that he made his view on this issue known. It was also during this time that I had the privilege of serving as the State Coordinator for Senator Feingold's Wisconsin offices. I served in this role for him and the residents of Wisconsin for seven years.

His statement in Paddock Lake occurred the same year as a vote by the citizens of Wisconsin to change the state constitution to define marriage strictly as between a man and a woman. That November the change would easily be passed in Wisconsin to no one's surprise.

That spring in Paddock Lake, as the issue of writing discrimination into our constitution slowly started to gain attention and polling showed strong support for amending the Constitution, someone stood up in Wisconsin and said this was not right. That person was U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, who, in response to a question from a Wisconsinite, not only clearly stated his opposition to amending the state constitution but stated his support for allowing homosexual couples to marry. Senator Feingold, while knowing this was not an issue the U.S. Senate would consider any time soon, felt it was important for him to share his belief with the citizens of Wisconsin before they voted on this issue at the ballot box. Senator Feingold's willingness to speak out on this issue -- even when it was clear through polling that it was not a popular position -- was an amazingly courageous stand.

The issue of marriage equality has evolved over time and support for this important issue has grown strong, not only on the left but also for some on the right. In recent weeks and days we have seen a number of national political figures come out in support of this important issue. While I appreciate and greatly respect these individuals for these stands, they are merely demonstrating "courage of circumstance." While I will not call all of them political opportunists, it is convenient they have, in most cases, changed their beliefs because the polls have changed or they recognize the impact of discrimination on a family member or friend. That is why now it is important to not only thank and recognize those who have finally acknowledged the grave injustice that has been done but to thank those, like Senator Feingold, who had the backbone to take this stand when it was not popular. Over the years I was fortunate to witness a number of occasions where Senator Feingold took courageous stands like this and he took these stands because they were the right thing to do, regardless of the political consequences-good, bad or indifferent. I might also add, Senator Feingold did not do this in hiding or just for the benefit of the national media. He did it when meeting with the people of Wisconsin, something that happens far too infrequently today.

By the way if you were unaware Senator Feingold took this stand so long ago, maybe it is because Twitter would not exist until four months after he announced his support.