It was quite evident that the New Jersey state Senate wasn’t going to have the votes to pass marriage equality last Thursday, so while I still hoped for a miracle, deep down I knew the final tally would be disheartening. Like thousands of others, I watched the scoreboard hoping that the votes for marriage would increase. They didn’t, and the bill failed as expected.
What I didn’t expect (although, I probably should have by now) is what happened immediately following the vote. When they announced that the bill had failed, a resounding applause filled the room. I’m not talking about polite clapping, there was a full-fledged emphatic series of yells, hallelujahs and woo-hoos!
I was appalled and confused.
The gallery was filled with people from both sides of the issue, so if marriage equality would have passed, I would expect a loud ovation from gay marriage advocates. After all, the vote had a direct influence on their lives -– an affirmative result would mean that they could now have equal recognition of their relationships.
As far as the reverse, I absolutely cannot understand why denying your neighbors’ right to marry would elicit such an exuberant response. My brain cannot process why so many people took the day off work so they could sit in an old statehouse for hours and wait for their opportunity to cheer the fact that the people surrounding them weren’t afforded the same rights as them.
Their lives don’t change because of the vote. Their children aren’t told that their family doesn’t deserve the same rights and protections as other families. It is unhealthy for them to dedicate so much time and energy to keeping others out of the marriage club.
BUT, anti-gay activists beware: This mean-spirited bullying not only angers me, it fills me with even more resolve to achieve marriage equality. We will continue to fight and when we win, our applause will celebrate the elimination of our second-class citizenship, not the personal pain of the people around us.
Photo courtesy of ProComKelly's Flickr Photostream