Here in Rhode Island, in recent days, a great debate has been raging . . .
It has centered around same-sex marriage – a contentious subject, it seems – and whether or not such a thing should be legalized in our state.
Some distinguished people – politicians, lawyers, civil rights leaders and the like – have aired their opinions at the State House in Providence. None has spoken as much sense as Matthew Lannon.
Matthew’s testimony, you see, received applause from all sides, a situation that is uncommon in sessions of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Matthew, it cannot be questioned, has made quite an impression. Matthew, it might come as a surprise to learn, is just 12.
That it required a Sixth-Grader’s input to get to the root of a topic that has been debated year after year for as long as anyone can remember is telling. You see, wisdom isn’t about age, or experience, or even education. No, wisdom, a little like love, comes from deep inside. That Matthew Lannon has both in an abundance is clear.
You see, unlike others, Matthew understands that the debate shouldn’t be about the issue itself, it should be about the people at its heart . . .
‘I think it’s important for you to hear from us, not just about us,’ he told the committee. From that point onwards, he had everyone’s attention.
He explained that he lives in a home with parents of the same sex and that, having experienced it for himself, he couldn’t understand the problem.
‘It comes down to one important question,’ he said. ‘Do you believe that my parents are equal to all the straight couples in Rhode Island? Personally, I believe that everyone is equal [and I believe that] my parents are exactly like other couples. We’re not the perfect family – we argue and we fight. But we’re real’.
In Rhode Island, same-sex couples can form civil partnerships but, unlike those in all the other New England states, are not allowed to be married. As with most issues in our society, there are those fiercely in favor of changing the law and those fiercely opposed. As with most issues, the main point has been overlooked for too long.
‘My moms have been together for 14 years,’ Matthew told the committee. ‘It’s a classic love story. When I think about what marriage means to me, I think it’s about two people who love each other and my parents certainly fit that description. Although they can’t legally marry, their commitment [to each other] is very, very real. My parents have stayed together, through sickness and health, through thick and thin, through good times and bad. Although I’m only 12, I have firm ideas about what’s important to me. I want to be someone who doesn’t believe in discrimination. I want to be someone who doesn’t judge others by the color of their skin, or their gender, or who they love. Here’s what I believe: there’s one thing that you don’t mess with in life and that’s love. My parents, and all the other gay and lesbian people here, just want to be happy, just like you. All they want is to be treated fairly. You have the option to change things. I say choose love.’
There’s so much more that we could write about this, but we don’t want our words to get in the way of Matthew’s. What we will say, and this is stating the obvious, is that Matthew is a remarkable young man, a young man with an amazing future and a young man who has got the power to make life better for others and to change the world . . .
Through his love and his compassion, with his wisdom and with his take on equality, discrimination and the things that truly matter in life. The things that drive our efforts here at OM®. The things that mark him out as someone for us all to take inspiration from.
To quote Matthew one last time, ‘I just want to use the gift that I was given to make the world a better place’. Here’s to him . . .