In the fall of 1993, my eighth grade English teacher assigned our first research paper ever. If memory serves, the topic was current events. Many of us found our thesis in the recent 1992 elections. I wrote about a Colorado's Amendment 2, approved that November, which prevented any city, town, county or the state from passing laws that would make discrimination against gays or lesbians illegal.
I cannot recall much from my stacks index cards that I painstakingly prepared, including a few citations to clarify actual Biblical language (it was parochial school after all). But, looking back, I must have subconsciously been seeking to reconcile my identity, my beliefs about American values, my religion, and my state's new law. Despite growing up believing I had the rights to life, liberty, happiness - and equality - my beloved state and neighbors had just proclaimed that I was not equal. They had legislated discrimination against me was perfectly acceptable, and they had won through the help of the churches where I prayed.
Deep down, the passage of Amendment 2 validated my shame and scarred me in ways that would take years to understand. As Romer vs. Evans marched through the justice system, my focus shifted to surviving the daily challenges of high school, trying to excel in athletics, keeping my grades up, and simply blending. Yet, that nagging voice of disapproval remained. No matter how hard I tried, how well I performed, or how much I may have actually fit in, I never felt that I belonged. My state told me so. And the constant fear that my perceived deficiency might be revealed was terrifying. These wounds would not be healed even years later when the Supreme Court struck down Amendment 2, setting the stage for future legal battles that we are now winning.
Last week, 22 years later, as a federal judge in Colorado concluded that the state's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, I was reminded of the 12-year-old me. Since then, I have overcome fears and shame, come out to supportive family and friends, and built a life that I love. But, I have never forgotten how 1992 felt.
To my family around the country, most of whom express public support for equality, and many of whom live in states where such equality is the law, and to my friends back home in Colorado who offer proud public support for me and equality - indulge me in a small request: make your voice heard.
Express joy that Colorado is a place of love and equality. Mention how proud you are that Colorado's ban on same-sex marriage was struck down. Do it on Facebook or Twitter, in an email, around the water cooler, AND - MOST IMPORTANTLY - in your home with your kids, parental peers, and your kids' friends. Make sure that no future generation of 12-year-olds feel ashamed. The reason I bug friends with political commentary, beg them for donations to suicide prevention programs, and work so hard is because I was a 12-year-old desperately seeking hope.
Last week, once again, we witnessed another demonstration of the social impact our movement fought and died to achieve. We are living in an era where every day, we further equality by exposing our lives and our truths. We continue demanding change of our parents, our legislators and our courts. And, we are giving future generations that hope.
Thank you, Colorado, for providing us - including every struggling child and adult - the public affirmation that we are, in fact, equal. It was a proud day for all Colorado natives.