In June 2011 Mayor Janice Daniels of Troy, Michigan, posted a derogatory Facebook message: “I think I am going to throw away my I Love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there.” At a City of Troy Council meeting, 75 people stood in line to respond. They were angry. They insisted she resign. They told her what a bad person she was.
A family of two moms and two little girls also stood in line to speak. Amy Weber, the mother who spoke, was gentle, intelligent, and warm. Listening to her and watching the little girls, I re-learned a lesson I often forget. When we point fingers and shovel guilt, we rarely change people’s minds, no matter how passionately right we’re sure we are.
We wanted to show up today to give you a look at our family. We are a gay family here in Michigan. We are legally married….I always like to think of challenges like this as opportunities to grow. You probably regretted the second that came out….But I also think it’s a wonderful opportunity for you to turn this around.
We talk every day about different families and different types of people and teaching respect and kindness. And that is the heart that beats in our home. It is about being kind and choosing love over everything. And when I told [the girls] about your comments, and they wanted to know why we were coming today, they wanted to do something for you, and that was to draw you a picture.
She presented two little pictures her daughters had drawn to remind the mayor always to look through the lens of love. Her final words were to acknowledge the mayor had made a mistake and to invite her to lead the next Gay Pride parade.
It was a touching moment. Mayor Daniels came into office with Tea Party support. She showed her colors when she posted the statement. Listening to community members rake her over the coals no doubt hurt, but she could not deny she had brought it on herself. Still, if the goal was to educate her and to bring her around to openness and tolerance, the lesbian mother probably had the most impact.
That’s an important lesson. It may take the rest of my life to learn it completely, particularly in the heat of debate, but I figure it’s worth a try.
Thanks, Amy Weber, for the gentle reminder about a better way to change minds.