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Amendment mocks Andrew’s sacrifice

March 20, 2012
The Journal

To the editor:

My son Andrew was killed in action in Afghanistan a year ago. He enlisted at the age of 29, knowing full well that he would be deployed at some point to either Iraq or Afghanistan. As a gay man, he understood that "Don't ask, Don't tell" was official military policy and what that meant for him.

Both took guts. Why did he do it? Andrew was looking for a life of meaning and purpose. He was looking for friendship and camaraderie.

He was a good soldier who happened to be gay. He was well liked and respected, his sexuality didn't matter.

When things get tense in a war zone, soldiers are not thinking about whether the person next to them is gay. They're just hoping like hell that they get through the day and that the men and women next to them do, too.

The Taliban doesn't discriminate. IEDs don't either.

Shortly after he died, a group of Minnesota legislators proposed placing an amendment to define marriage on the 2012 ballot. On a normal day, in our life before he died, this would've felt bad enough. But following so closely after the death of our gay son who died serving our country, it seemed especially hurtful and terribly wrong. It was clear that our son had just died protecting the constitution that could soon discriminate against him.

In an attempt to get the proponents of this legislation to see the contradictions around this amendment, my husband, Jeff, and I spent weeks at the capital, trying to get senators and representatives to listen to us. Some did, but others couldn't stop marching down the hall long enough to even look us in the eye. It was painful, and we were exhausted. Why did we do it? Because it seemed like Andrew left us with something to do.

We, along with several other friends, formed Andrew's Round Table after the amendment passed on May 20th. We have this in common: we are straight. We have gay and lesbian kids, gay and lesbian brothers, sisters, and friends. And we are determined to defeat this amendment.

We recognize that it is imperative to talk with Minnesotans about this hurtful amendment, and the impact it would have on our friends, family and neighbors if it passes. Our intent is to get out and start talking about our families, as well as invite speakers here to tell their stories to get Minnesotans thinking and talking about the amendment.

I think that in the past, most straight people didn't think they could or should participate in a movement like this. But I have learned a lot about what it means to do the right thing since Andrew joined the Army.

In the military, the mission is their focus. Their values are loyalty, service, sacrifice and teamwork. They fight for each other. They defend each other. Why don't we?

John Kriesel's speech the night of the House vote last May will stick with me forever. His speech exemplified the loyalty among those in the military that we have seen over and over by defending a fellow soldier that he didn't even know, even risking his political career, because it was the right thing to do.

Americans often say that our soldiers fight to protect our freedoms; yet at the same time many Americans are quick to limit the freedoms of some citizens here at home. It is not lost on us that Andrew died protecting rights that he himself could not enjoy especially the right to marry the person he loved.

In the last two decades, several words have been hijacked and redefined to be exclusionary. Words like family, freedom, patriotism, marriage. But you know what? These words belong to everyone. We are all family. Life and love are precious and two committed people who are in love with one other should have the freedom to marry. It is patriotic to fight for that freedom.

The day after Andrew died we flew to Dover Air Force base to receive his remains. An Army chaplain said to us, "Your family just got a whole lot bigger. " He wasn't kidding. The U.S. Army, other Gold Star Families, and Andrew's fellow soldiers have been enormously supportive. Members of Andrew's company have said that he was an exemplary soldier and friend. The fact that he was gay was never a problem for them.

This campaign is all about telling our personal stories and having conversations. Minnesotans United for all Families has built a strong coalition across a broad spectrum of groups, communities of faith, political parties, businesses, and labor unions, just to name a few. We, Andrews Round Table, are pleased to join them.

We have many differences, but one common goal unites us all. And by all of us working together, we can and will defeat this amendment.

Lori Wilfahrt




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