I am here today because the perceived easy path to overcome the challenges, instead of the hard one, was not meant to be. At that moment, when I survived, I believed my life still had a purpose and I still had something to contribute. I never thought the day would come, but what can seem impossible one day can seem inevitable the next. So, over time and after much soul-searching, I arrived at the conclusion that I could not change who I was, that I was gay, and that I wanted to live, hopefully to find someone to spend the rest of my life with. I received information authored by internationally-renowned psychologist Dr. Gregory Herek, concluding that people "have no choice in their sexual orientation" and that "therapeutic efforts to change an individual's sexual orientation have not been effective and instead pose a risk of harm to the individual." I was shown study after study demonstrating that the vast majority of gay men and lesbians have "no choice" about their sexual orientation. I was told by certain respected religious leaders, including from institutions that currently prohibit same-sex marriage, that they believe people have "no choice" as well. And I arrived to the belief that those American ideals enshrined in our founding documents would one day carry the day, and I would be welcomed as a full member of our society, not left as a permanent member of an underclass of Americans.
Mr. Chairman and members of this committee: Acting favorably on Senate Bill 116 will not change all the difficulties about being gay, or end the struggle of identification and for acceptance in so many communities. But your favorable action on this bill will begin to peal away centuries of unjust treatment on the basis of something as essential to our existence as our gender, as our ethnicity, and as our race. And, if you know me well, that statement should carry some weight because, to many, being Greek is all that defines me.
From the beginning, gays and lesbians have served our country and state. On the front lines of war, they have died and they have saved their countrymen and nations. They have served in critical posts in the White House and in state houses across our nation, including our own, like me. They have led political movements. They have run incredibly successfully businesses. They have pioneered groundbreaking scientific developments. We have contributed and continue to contribute to the improvement of our nation and state and to the well being of our families. There is no rational basis to deny us civil marriage and to deny us status as equals in society.
To my conservative friends on this committee, although you relied on my professional judgment when I served as Governor Ehrlich's attorney, you can reject my judgment as to who I am, disapprove of me, gays and same-sex marriage out of religious conviction. Yet, there are still ample reasons to support civil marriage freedom.
First, it is anti-conservative and antithetical to the principles of individual liberty and personal freedom to force government to stop me from partaking in a civil right essential to my place in the community.
Second, this is decidedly a state issue, not a religious one. Marriage, under state law, is after all a civil bond, to provide a privilege and respected status, entitled to the state's support and benefits. Moreover, under this proposed bill, religious institutions and groups can choose to endorse same-sex marriage or not as they see fit.
Third, there is nothing more conservative than supporting freedom and there is nothing less conservative than forbidding the creation of families. So much of what is important about families will be protected, enhanced, and encouraged in allowing all men and women to share in marriage.