John M. Becker

Profiles in Courage & Cowardice: A Tale of Two Legislators

Filed By John M. Becker | November 07, 2013 5:15 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: betrayal, gay marriage, Hawaii, heroism, Illinois, Jo Jordan, marriage equality, Naomi Jakobsson, quisling, same-sex marriage

The recent marriage equality votes in Illinois and Hawaii both ended positively: the Illinois House gave final approval to an equal-marriage bill and sent it to the governor to sign, and the Hawaii House advanced its bill to its third and final reading.

Needless to say, there's been a flurry of media coverage of the battles in both states (including here on Bilerico). But two stories in particular stood out to me as a study in the contrast between courage and cowardice.

jo_jordan.jpgFirst, the bad news: Hawaii Democratic state representative Jo Jordan (Facebook, Twitter) became the first openly LGBT lawmaker in history to betray her community and vote against equal marriage rights. Zack Ford of ThinkProgress reports:

Jordan had reservations about the bill before Hawaii's special session even began. Last week, she explained that she was undecided, because even though 75 percent of her constituents support marriage equality, she felt she had to represent the entire state. She seemed to be unaware that statewide polling showed a 55 percent majority support marriage equality.

The Supreme Court's decision overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) did little to convince Jordan that the state's civil unions would no longer suffice: "Has anybody been denied before DOMA or after DOMA -- what has changed in our state? These are questions that I still have to settle in myself and that's why I'm undecided." This is in spite of the fact that federal agencies have explicitly said in the months since the DOMA decision that civil unions will not be counted for most federal marriage benefits, including tax benefits, Social Security, and any partner benefits for federal employees.

Jordan said she might not be sure about supporting the bill until its third vote, and she was clearly not ready in time for its second vote on Wednesday.

Denis Dison of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund told Ford, "It's hard to understand how a member of the LGBT community could vote against the simple freedom to marry the person they love."

No kidding — what a quisling. Here's hoping that equality advocates across the state of Hawaii (and beyond!) team up to throw this spineless lawmaker out of office.

The good news is after the jump.

In the Land of Lincoln, Democratic state representative Naomi Jakobsson (Facebook) showed what real courage looks like, making the gut-wrenching decision to leave her dying son's bedside to cast a critical vote for marriage equality. The Huffington Post has the story:

naomi_jakobsson.jpgTuesday afternoon, state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, a Champaign Democrat, rushed to the state capitol in Springfield to vote on the measure. With her support, the bill was approved with 61 votes in favor -- only one more than the minimum it needed in order to pass.

When Jakobsson returned to the Mattoon, Ill. hospice where her dying son, Garret, was staying after a 90-minute drive, she learned he had died just 10 minutes before her arrival, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The lawmaker had been sitting at Garret Jakobsson's bedside as part of a weeklong vigil of sorts prior to his passing. Garret was 46 years old and had been sick with Pick's disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, for some time, the Associated Press reports.

In a brief Tuesday statement, Jakobsson said the marriage bill vote was "one that I felt I could not miss and I know my son was proud of my decision."

Rep. Jakobsson is my hero today. Same-sex couples across the state of Illinois owe her a debt of gratitude.

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