for Senate Committee
Put H.B. 99 to a Vote
Editor's Note: Lisa Venables is a Laurel resident and the daughter-in-law of Delaware Sen. Robert Venables, the chairman of the Senate committee investigating House Bill 99 for the state Senate. She prepared this statement for the hearing held by Sen. Venables' Senate committee on Jan. 26, 2002, but the hearing ended before she could present it.
I'm Lisa Venables, and I'd like to preface my testimony with a few acknowledgements:
First, thank you Chairman Venables, members of the committee, and other legislators present, for providing this public hearing to discuss H.B. 99.
Second, I'd like to commend the bill's sponsors and thank the legislators who are courageously publicly supporting this proposed legislation -- especially in an election year -- as you're truly risking secondary discrimination and losing your consituents' support.
Likewise, I commend the staff and editors of both Sussex County Online and the News Journal -- as they've been the only media, out of many approached, willing to be associated with this emotion-laden and divisive issue.
Next, my heartfelt thanks to my few TRUE friends and family, who've demonstrated true Christian ethics to me -- by their continued support, love, and acceptance of my participation in this debate, regardless of any differing beliefs.
Finally, sincere gratitude for those who've called to share their personal stories and to vocalize support of my coming forward -- many who've stressed wanting to themselves, but voiced fear of losing their jobs, or increased ostracism, should they risk publicly attending the hearing, or any association with support of H.B. 99. AND THEY SHOULD BE AFRAID AFTER HEARING THE VENOMOUS RHETORIC OF THE BILL'S OPPONENTS -- fearful of change and what they do not and/or refuse to understand -- who continue masking intolerance and phobias, specifically homophobia, behind irrational arguments based on partial truths, skewed statistics, even lies, in the name of religion.
Indeed, out of my own fears of potentially losing employment opportunities and increasing family fragmentation, I've refrained from public disclosure to most, until recently, out of the utmost respect for Senator Venables -- and hoping that H.B. 99 would reach the Senate floor for voting, without my direct involvement. But the democratic process continues to be stalled, so I've become active in the debate.
Additionally, since my late brother -- who was gay, lived so rather privately, and was by most other standard "measures" of character, quite conservative -- can't be here to vocalize his support, I'm doing so in his honor. I won't be discussing specific examples of his discrimination, because after proudly serving our country in the Air Force, he wisely chose to leave his home in Delaware and move to a more urban and tolerant area than here.
Therefore, having already stated my intended points in my letter to the Senators, I have a couple of additional points, before closing.
As stated earlier, I believe it moot to cloak oppositional arguments to H.B. 99 behind religious beliefs or subjective, Biblical interpretations. Indeed, having the freedom to express differing spiritual and religious beliefs -- individually and collectively -- is a core, American value most respect, abide by, and wish to reinforce.
However, we must make a clear distinction between: (a) having the right to believe and express, what attitudes and actions we think the Bible may/may not either accept or condone, and (b) either imposing any set of beliefs on others or discriminating against them, accordingly. To do the latter is not only immoral and non-Christian, it is unlawful.
Additionally, many have voiced objections that passing this bill will create "special treatment." Again, ask yourself as an American, are your valid expectations to work, live, etc., in environments free from hate-crimes, intimidating, harassing looks, gestures, and comments, plus keep your job and be evaluated by performing it successfully -- well, are these really considered "special rights," as opponents claim, or merely basic, human rights our Constitutional forefathers intended to be afforded to all, equally?
Is simply treating others, fairly and respectfully, really the same as condoning any specific beliefs, behaviors, or sexual orientation -- any more than it would be for the full range of potential religious or political convictions?
In closing, while I'm aware that my public involvement and statements in support of H.B. 99 have caused some increased tension and conflict, by heating up the debate, knowing the process of social change -- I believe this is the greatest contribution in my coming forward and participating now.
As humans, sometimes we rigidly hold onto current beliefs, and are closed to opportunies to grow -- to change our learned attitudes and beliefs -- until we become aware, faced with an unpleasant, psychological state of internal conflict. Such a state of cognitive dissonance occurs when we're provided with new information, and/or perspectives which strike closer to home and cause a discrepancy between our idealized view of ourselves (self-ideal) and our actual behavior to others.
As a counselor aware of this concept, it is my hope that hearing some of today's testimony increases this internal conflict for some, and facilitates enlightenment, tolerance, and change.
Ultimately, I believe there are many other Delawareans who would like to publicly support H.B. 99, also, (or at least support its release out of committee) and who otherwise know in their hearts that doing so is simply common sense, simply fair and just, but they're afraid to do so.
Please Chairman Venables, members of the committe, as leaders, listen to your inner voices of social conscience, as you rise to what has become a challenging decision. Do what you know in your hearts is right and just, by releasing the bill to the Senate floor for the democratic process to go forward.
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