Friday, February 11

Adam Ebbin - Our Daniel in the Lion's Den

This week, the Virginia House of Delegates approved (78-18) a bill sending a constitutional ban on gay marriage to the voters. While this outcome was not surprising, I wanted to give one man his due for standing up to this bigoted folly. Del. Ebbin (D-Alexandria) is the only openly gay member of the General Assembly, and he's our constant thorn in the side of the right-wing bible-thumpers who predominate that body. The value of his presence in Richmond is incalculable. Ebbin serves as a bodily reminder that homosexuals are not merely some shadowy "other" with a secretive "agenda" that can be villified by legislators without limit or decency.

Ebbin often manages a bit of macabre humor in his speeches, frequently lampooning the cartoonish bloviations of the anti-gay caucus -- people who are not used to hearing anyone challenge to their blinkered, bigoted views on gays. On February 7th, on the floor of the House, Del. Ebbin rose to speak against the inevitable approval of the marriage amendment. It was an emotional appeal -- think Joseph Welch -- and well worthy of excerpting here:

This House has taken a number of actions to exclude gay and lesbian Virginian citizens from mainstream society and that, together with this proposed Constitutional Amendment, will make gays and lesbians strangers to the laws of this Commonwealth.

There are moments in our history as a nation and as a Commonwealth of which we are profoundly ashamed. The trail of tears of Native Americans, slavery, the denial of women’s suffrage, lynchings, the internment of Japanese Americans, massive resistance to desegregation and anti-miscegenation laws right here in Virginia. Many of you will say those were different I have no doubt, Mr. Speaker, today is one of those moments of which we will one day be ashamed. We are about to actively write discrimination into our State Constitution.

I can not stand by while this body uses gays and lesbians as scapegoats for what has happened to the institution of marriage.

Ebbin constantly implores, cajoles, and berates his colleagues who have made it their quest to turn Virginia into the most intolerant state (in legal terms) to gays and same-sex relationships. He's not the only fair-minded legislator in Virginia, and he surely aspires to being more than just "the gay delegate," but as Ebbin himself told the WashBlade, "There’s something very empowering having that microphone on the House floor and being able to speak."

For simply being who he is, where he is, gays everywhere owe him a huge debt of gratitude.