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Testimony of 12-Year-Old with Two Moms Moves Some Vermont Legislators to Support Gay Marriage Bill

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Evann Orleck-Jetter testified at the public hearings on gay marriage last month before Vermont’s Joint Senate and House Judiciary Committees. Many legislators later told Evann and her parents that her testimony had moved them to support the bill. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, but we’re staying in Vermont for just one more segment, because my next guest is a young advocate for legalizing gay marriage. Evann Orleck-Jetter testified at the public hearings on gay marriage before the Vermont Joint Senate and House Judiciary Committees.

    EVANN ORLECK-JETTER: I’m twelve years old, and I live in Bedford Center. I have a wonderful family. I live with my little brother, my grandma and two moms who are with me all the time and support me in whatever I do. I love them very much, and I wish that having to stand up here right now in front of this committee wasn’t an issue anymore. We should be past this. I work really hard in school. I have good friends, and I am really happy with two loving parents.

    I have been studying the civil rights movement in school, and I’ve learned all about the countless acts of bravery that blacks performed to get their rights. But we still haven’t reached the promised land that Martin Luther King wanted us to reach, because although black boys and white boys and black girls and white girls can play together now, we still don’t accept that two people of the same gender can be together, married with kids of their own. We need to reach the promised land. Vermont’s Freedom to Marry can help us get back on track.

    Feeling accepted in a society where gay and lesbian people aren’t represented in daily life, like on television, in the media, is a real problem. There aren’t any examples of a family like mine. If my parents could just have the right to get married, this would make such a difference. It hurts me sometimes when I feel invisible, because few people understand my feelings about my family, and few people want to ask about families with two moms. It’s time to ask, it’s time to understand, and it’s time to accept and honor families like mine.

AMY GOODMAN: Evann Orleck-Jetter, testifying before the Vermont legislature last month. Many legislators told Evann and her parents that her testimony had moved them to support the bill. Evann Orleck-Jetter joins me now from Burlington, Vermont.

Evann, welcome to Democracy Now!


AMY GOODMAN: Well, what did it feel like to testify before the state legislature in Vermont?

EVANN ORLECK-JETTER: Well, it was just a huge mix of feelings. I mean, I was really nervous being there in front of all those people, and some of them didn’t support what I had to say, and so that was hard. But I also felt excited, because I felt like I was part of something so important to me and to my family and to so many other gay and lesbian couples in Vermont. So it was just a mix of everything. But overall, it felt good, and it felt like it was really time for me to speak up, so it was important.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what it means for your moms to be able to marry each other?

EVANN ORLECK-JETTER: Mm-hmm. Yeah, it means a lot of things. It means that — in school, I’ve always not been able to really connect with my classmates. Their parents all are all married or divorced or — anyway, I mean, I always felt separate from them in that way and that I couldn’t connect with them, because my parents were civil unioned, and they didn’t have the right to get married. And I was hurt by that, I was upset about that, but I also felt like I really couldn’t talk about it, because people didn’t know — didn’t know what it was like to have parents who were civil unioned. And my parents getting the right to get married just opens up so much for me. I feel so much more comfortable now to talk to my classmates and my teachers. And I think this will just — there’s no more boundaries anymore.

AMY GOODMAN: Evann, were you in the state legislature yesterday when the vote went down?

EVANN ORLECK-JETTER: Actually, I wasn’t. I was in school.

AMY GOODMAN: And how did you hear that the governor’s veto of gay marriage was overridden by Republican and Democratic legislators?

EVANN ORLECK-JETTER: Well, my mom picked me up, and I went home, and she told me. And I was just — I was surprised, because I was really worried that we couldn’t override the veto, but I was also filled with so much joy, because, wow, it really happened! My parents can get married now. And we’ve come together, Republicans and Democrats, to fight for an issue that’s really important. And I think it felt great to be a part of it, and I hope that I made a difference. So, it was just — it was just a really great moment for me.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, clearly, you did make a difference, because when legislators were asked about how they perhaps changed their vote or why they decided to vote for gay marriage, a number of them talked about you, about a twelve-year-old girl testifying, talking about what it meant for her moms to marry. So how does it feel to make history, Evann?

EVANN ORLECK-JETTER: Well, I think why I made such a difference was because the opposition said that, you know, “We’re all about the kids.” And that just didn’t make any sense to me. If you’re all about the kids, then why don’t you support people who are trying to raise them and have a great family, instead of saying that they’re not qualified? And I felt it was so important for me to get up there and say what I felt, because I don’t think they really knew what they were saying when they put that out. I think it was a lack of information to say it was about the kids. It hurts me that they’re so against my parents getting married. And if you think about the kids, then you should think about hurting the kids whose parents just want equal rights and whose kids just want equal rights and to be — feel accepted in their schools, with their teachers. So, getting up there, saying what I felt, I thought that really helped change things. So I felt honored that I could help change history. It was really a big moment for me.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Evann Orleck-Jetter, I want to thank you very much for being with us today, for being on this, well, global broadcast. As we broadcast from Tennessee and talk to you in Vermont, your voice is being heard all over the world. Thanks so much.

EVANN ORLECK-JETTER: Thank you so much.

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