THANK YOU, TIMES-NEWS, FOR THIS STORY:

On Sunday, May 13th, the story printed below ran on page 2 of the first section of the Burlington Times-News.  We’ve read stories like this before, but we still need to be reminded of the fact that personal friendship is a factor that brings about the most attitudinal change.

PERSONAL TIES SHAPE ATTITUDES TOWARDS GAYS

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) —   In revealing his support for same-sex marriage, President Barack Obama   attributed his change in thinking to a series of key conversations and   experiences. Talking to members of his staff and gay service members in   committed relationships made it more difficult to justify why they should not   have the right to marry, he said.

Just as influential in   his thinking, according to Obama, were dinnertime conversations with his 13-   and 10-year-old daughters, who have friends with two mothers or two fathers.

“It wouldn’t dawn   on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated   differently,” the president said. “It doesn’t make sense to them   and, frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in   perspective.”

While separating the   personal from the political is impossible in the president’s case, others who   have moved in the same direction on the issue say they immediately recognized   themselves in Obama’s remarks. Once comfortably opposed, they found their   views shifting as a result of sometimes uncomfortable dialogues taking place   at churches, workplaces, soccer fields and statehouses.

“I had the same   conversation with my daughter,” New York Assemblywoman Sandra Galef, a   Democrat representing the Manhattan suburbs in Westchester County. “My   daughter told me, `Mom, you’re old fashioned. What difference does it make if   people love each other? Everyone should have their rights.’ She really just   totally disagreed with her mom.”

Galef, 72, credits   those talks with moving her from voting in 2009 against a bill that would   have legalized same-sex unions in the state to voting for a similar bill two   years later.

“My daughter, I   think, really opened my eyes to the fact that I grew up in a different age   and just made it so clear that I wasn’t thinking like a more modern person on   this topic,” she said. “When the president said this, I could just   relate to myself having gone through the whole scenario.”

Before Obama became   the first sitting president to endorse marriage rights for same-sex couples,   other politicians had attributed changes of heart on the issue to having gay   people leading comfortably conventional lives in their worlds. The leader of   the Iowa Senate, Mike Gronstal, held back a constitutional amendment that   would have banned gay marriage in his state in 2009 after his daughter   changed his mind on the subject. Former Vice President Dick Cheney and San   Diego Mayor Jerry Saunders also came out for same-sex marriage after learning   their daughters were lesbians.

Gay rights activists   have recognized for decades that having a close friend or family member who   is gay was a powerful predictor of how Americans felt about gay rights   issues. Now that marriage is high on the movement’s wish list, they have   become even more convinced that sharing stories and common experiences will   be key to its success.

“Pretty much   everybody these days knows someone who is gay or lesbian, but it is knowing   them well, or well enough to have a real conversation about why marriage   matters to them, that moves people forward,” Marc Solomon, the national   campaign manager for Freedom to Marry, a New York-based group that advocates   for same-sex marriage and actively encourages gay people to initiate   discussions on the topic.

A 2011 poll by the   Washington, D.C.-based Public Religion Research Institute found that support   for gay marriage is twice as high among people who have a close friend or   family member who is gay. While 47 percent of Americans favor gay marriage,   according to the poll, that number rises to 64 percent among people with   intimate ties to gays and lesbians, and falls to 37 percent among respondents   without that personal connection.

To be sure, knowing, admiring   and even loving someone who is gay is not a foolproof prescription for   embracing same-sex marriage.

Robert Tyler, a   California lawyer who has helped defend the state’s one man-one woman laws,   considers some of the opposing gay lawyers to be friends. He respects them as   lawyers, as spouses and even as parents. But that respect has not translated   into his thinking they should be able to get married.

“I’d take the   coat off my back and give it to them if they needed my coat,” he said.   “Yet at the same time, that doesn’t cause me to change my position on   the public policy arguments just because I feel that way.”

Lutheran Pastor Jim   Klosterboer is among those who did change his position – even though, in his   case, he told himself 20 years ago that the day his denomination ordained   gays would be the day he left his church.

Instead, over the next   two decades, the 62-year-old minister in rural Elkader, Iowa, began hearing   the stories of gay men and lesbians. Sometimes the people he spoke with were   gay, sometimes they were people with gay relatives. The conversations caused   him to rethink his long-held views and eventually shifted Klosterboer’s   stance to a point where he supports the right of same-sex couples to get   married.

“It was when I   could put a face to the story, and I thought, `You know, I need to relook to   see what Scripture says,'” said Klosterboer, minister at Bethany   Lutheran Church .

Nora Phemester, 54, a   hospice nurse who lives in Wheeling, W. Va., had long supported rights for   gay people up to and including adopting children. But she drew the line at   marriage, until her grown daughter introduced her in 2010 to a lesbian couple   who were raising four children. One of the women was a nurse, like Phemester   and her daughter. The other was a Cub Scouts den mother who would eventually   be removed from the post because of the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gays   troop leaders and members,

“They’re bright,   very smart, they’re giving to the community, they’re out there working every   day just like everybody else,” Phemester said. “So why shouldn’t   they be allowed to have the same rights and benefits as married couples have,   especially for people who are in committed, long-term relationships?”

Such experiences show   that the gay rights movement has acquired a powerful tool in advancing the   marriage cause, according to Lanae Erickson, director of social policy and   politics at Third Way, a Washington-based think tank.

Recent campaigns to   ban same-sex marriage in states such as California and Maine have relied   heavily on messages that children would be negatively affected if gay couples   could wed.

“One of people’s   major concerns about extending marriage to gay couples is that marriage is   going to change in some way, that it could be devalued in some way,”   Erickson said. “There is something about hearing from their kids that   reassures them on that point. It makes them realize the kids still have   respect for the tradition of marriage, still want to get married themselves   and still see gay couples as part of that.”

From   PfLAGAlamance:  AMEN

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