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Moving testimony on marriage equality from senior aide to former GOP gov. of MD, Ehrlich

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The former deputy legal counsel to former Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich (a Republican), Chrysovalantis Kefalas testified today in the Maryland Senate in favor of marriage equality. Quite moving testimony.

What's most fascinating to me is how helpful gay Republicans have become of late. It wasn't always so. Some were good, and some groups, like Log Cabin, were good at some times. But not always. In the end, far too many gay Republicans, and gay Republican groups, were Republican first and gay a very distant second. That's changed. And it's good see. Testimony like this, especially coming from a conservative Republican, is incredibly powerful and incredibly helpful. It is to be welcomed.

Here's a long snippet - definitely worth a read:

I am gay. Under the present law, I am considered less of a citizen and less deserving of government’s legal recognition. I cannot access the same civil right that an incarcerated felon can benefit from.

It is very difficult to express to you how hard it was coming to terms with who I am. Striving to succeed in business and professionally and be the best son, brother, grandson, godchild, nephew, cousin, and friend for so long enabled me to shield a side of me I wanted to ignore, to fight off, and to deny. Working endlessly on entrepreneurial activities in high school and college (for example, founding a weekly sports magazine once featured alongside in USA Today’s Baseball Weekly as one of the premier fantasy baseball websites in America), total commitment to my educational and professional pursuits, and filling my schedule entirely with family or work moments allowed me to go longer than many in denying this part of me. I did not need to date because I had work. I did not need to date because I had family commitments I wanted to keep. And, putting self-realization aside was necessary to protect my family and me from the stigma, stereotypes, and consequences of giving in to something triggered within me.

Because of the stigmatization fostered and unequal treatment imposed, in part, by state law, and adjoining prejudices, stereotypes, and consequences of this reality, I endured a struggle for and of my life. Rendered essentially illegitimate by law, all that mattered to me and all that defined me, including relationships with the people I most admire and love, were (and in some cases remain) at risk.

I had always dreamed of making my family proud, not only by my public service and other professional accomplishments but by marrying; having and raising third generation Greek-Americans to reach farther than their parents and grandparents had; and building an enduring legacy of service that would contribute to improving the lives of people less fortunate than us. I wished to hug my grandparents after the wedding crown was placed on my head, to embrace my godfather after the wedding ceremony, to lead my bride in the first dance, to hold my child on the altar of my beloved St. Nicholas Church. And, through all that, turn to my parents who I wanted to see beaming, because they have sacrificed so much for me, with their ultimate dream for their son fulfilled.

And, these family goals ignored that everything I had worked for, to put myself in a position to contribute more to my country, state, and community, by serving in elective office as a Republican when the time was right, might have been for naught.

I tried to do everything I knew to avoid the loss of these moments and dreams. What I confirmed about myself was the result of an emotional, psychological, and spiritual struggle and extensive deliberation. I did not and would not do anything to dishonor my family, my friends, and everyone else who put their trust and confidence in me. Though I felt I was different at least by age fourteen, I committed to never act on my feelings for well over a decade for my concern of what it would do to my family, to all my relationships, and to my dreams. I really wanted to think it was just a phase. For a long while, I hated myself and did not think that the thoughts I felt were part of God’s plan. I constantly denied to myself what I knew. I continually put on a facade as if everything was okay but underneath it was not.

Before the darkest hour of my life, I prayed harder; sought the intercession of the great saints of my faith; visited and prayed at some of the holiest places in my faith; went on dates with women (it helped being named one of Baltimore magazine’s Top Singles); and sought out professionals for reparative therapy and spent whatever I thought it took, literally tens of thousands of dollars, to try to fight what I looked at as an unnatural state of mind. I also went to spiritual counseling to change. I tried to change what I thought, felt, and knew.

For me, not being able to experience the traditional Greek-American dream, or my take on it, felt for so long like a life lost. My parents measure their success by the life of their children, and I dwelled so long on the thought that I would be in their eyes a failed son despite everything I have done, been, believed. I prayed for so long that I would be diagnosed with a terminal illness, maybe like my grandfather Panagioti, because the thought of telling my family and friends that over what I felt seemed better. I thought it would be better to not be around, to allow them and my sister and family to think of, remember me for who I was, not for who I might come to love.

As a result of all these concerns, I thought of and seriously came close to ending my life, with the medications to overdose with and die.

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.
Yusef Najafi of Metro Weekly has been covering the hearings by Tweet today, you can follow him here.

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