By Wayne Drash, CNN
(CNN) - After their son was killed in battle in Afghanistan, Lori and Jeff Wilfahrt crisscrossed their home state of Minnesota. They spoke at churches, schools, book clubs. They spoke of Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt's love of country and the Constitution.
They spoke, too, of grief. They are a mother and father who utterly miss their son, a soldier who was openly gay.
On Tuesday, November 6, the Wilfahrts entered their polling station in Rosemount to vote against a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and woman. Both parents wondered: Had their boy died protecting homophobes who would deny him rights back home?
In Frederick, Maryland, the Rev. Barbara Kershner Daniel had lived with guilt for nearly 25 years. A fellow preacher who was gay had asked her to officiate his wedding with his partner. She told him no.
"Why did I do that?" she has asked herself ever since.
Mark Ellis, the former GOP state chairman in Maine, knew where he stood on the issue of same-sex marriage. Yet he struggled with whether it would hurt him professionally to break from his party.
In the northern suburbs of Seattle, middle school band and orchestra teacher Michael Clark had always spoken of dignity and respect for all. He and his partner of 18 years sat together at their dining table to vote early this year.
Their ballots weren't just votes. They were an affirmation of their love.
From Minnesota to Maryland, from Maine to Washington, this mixed coalition of voters - grieving parents, a preacher, a lifelong Republican and a gay couple - joined forces to push for historic change on same-sex marriage.
Never before had a state rejected a constitutional amendment to prevent gays from marrying. Minnesota did just that, in part spurred by the Wilfahrts' activism.
Never before had voters approved laws allowing same-sex marriage. Maryland, Maine and Washington did just that. Those states may not have garnered enough votes if ordinary citizens like Daniel, Ellis and
Clark had remained quiet.
Each took up the cause for personal reasons shaped by life experiences. Together, they surprised America; their voices emerged as a sign of a more progressive electorate that's grown tired of arguments that say marriage between two men or two women undermines the institution and the very fabric of society.
Comments are closed.
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at email@example.com.
Send Feedback | Subscribe