Dana Rudolph

Vermont Teen Testifies for Marriage Equality

Filed By Dana Rudolph | March 22, 2009 7:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, You Gotta See This
Tags: marriage, Vermont

Outright Vermont Youth & Board Representative James Neiley, 17, testifies before the Vermont Senate on marriage equality. Have the tissues handy, especially when he gets to the passage on how he would like to raise his children.

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Its hard to feel equal when you know you're not. Marriage equality is about a lot more than shared health plans. James, you do Vermont proud.

Having marriage rights is not going to end anti-queer hatred and violence. I found this manipulative and deceptive. How will Niely and his media trainers respond to anti-queer violence *after* the recognition of same-sex marriage? Bad karma?

I realise that much of this is strategic, but it disturbs me to see the issue of violence - which is very real and pervasive - conflated with "marriage equality."

And then there's the matter of Niely's depiction of a suburban-mom-style of parenting. It drips with nostalgia and confirms what a friend of mine said the other day about the inherent conservatism of children. And, on that matter: it's interesting and frightening to watch Niely and other children and youth in the marriage movement. On the one hand, they're naive and clearly being trained by the older people in the marriage movement. On the other hand, they're being taught to be manipulative and strategic to get to what they're convinced is the ultimate goal of marriage. I hate to think about what kind of people they'll be ten years from now.

James Neiley | March 22, 2009 8:51 PM

Hello, this is James Neiley and I would like to respond to your commentary on my testimony.

First of all, I would like to address your opinion of the lack of relevance of same-sex marriage rights to bullying and harassment. I believe there is a direct correlation between the two. As I stated in my testimony, it is hard for many people (including some students in my high school) to understand that homosexuality is no lesser than heterosexuality when we don't have the same rights. Not having complete marriage equality draws a clear line between the two. In order to unify the two groups, there needs to be an equal recognition of both in all respects. Socially, the two won't be equal until they are legally equal. Generations from now, I hope that marriage equality will be present, and I also firmly believe that there will be less homophobia because of it, and because of the awareness and education caused by marriage equality.

Second of all, I would like to address your assumption that I have been coached, trained and influenced to write what I wrote in my testimony. To be perfectly honest, I sat down at my computer and wrote what I thought were the most important things that needed to be made clear to the Vermont Judiciary Committee. I didn't write what Outright wanted written, I didn't write what Freedom to Marry wanted to hear. I wrote what I wanted to say, and in my own words. I firmly stand behind every idea I presented, and don't like that you would assume I was trying to manipulate the committee. I did not take time to think what would be most effective, I did not consciously use strategy. The only thing I did was use my own thoughts and my own experiences to write what I knew about marriage equality.

Third of all, I don't what I believe was an attack on my character.

"I hate to think about what kind of people they'll be ten years from now. "

Ten years from now, I hope to be a designer, or an advertiser. Ten years from now, I hope to play piano and sing in bars. Ten years from now, I hope to be happy, and I hope to express myself through music and art. Ten years from now, I will be just as non-manipulative as I am now. In ten years, I hope to be kind to the other people around me and continue to make an effort to stop genocide. I hope to protect minorities (and majorities) from hate.

While I do respect your opinion (whatever it may be) on same-sex marriage, in the future, I ask you not make blind assumptions about mine, or anyone's character. Especially without first having a conversation with them. Just because I'm 17, doesn't mean I don't have my own opinions, and doesn't mean I am unable to participate in political discussion without the aid of an adult.

James Neiley

Brave kid. He must have terrific, accepting parents which makes him luckier than many.

tobyhannabill | March 22, 2009 2:10 AM

This young man is awesome.
Articulate and handsome.
He knows what he wants and
expresses it beautifully.

Hey James, you made me cry. And I have the double of your age, so thank you.

It is amazing how a young, smart 17 year old can re-energize a 68 year old but you did, James, and I sincerely thank you.

James Neiley | March 22, 2009 8:53 PM

p.s. Thank you everyone for your support, I hope to continue being an activist for LGBTQ rights in the future.

Thanks!!! :D


We'd like to offer you the opportunity to guest post. Please contact me at [email protected].

Great job James!

I thought the connection between bullying and marriage equality was brilliant.

Keep up the good work.

Meanwhile, we all better get our act together and start snail mailing Governor Jim Douglas. Douglas is sending out signals suggesting that he will veto the bill on the premise that civil unions are sufficient.

We all seem to agree that James is a terrific kid. That's easy. Now let's do the hard work to get something done.