Denver Marriage Equality Rally Organized by 9-Year-Old

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday May 18, 2009

For some people, the question of how equal people are--and why some families are more "equal" than others--involves complicated rationales.

For others, such as nine-year-old Ethan McNamee, the matter is simple.

"Everybody is different in a good way," explained McNamee, who, despite his tender years, put together a rally in support of marriage equality on May 16.

McNamee was quoted by Denver's Channel 7News in a May 15 article.

The Channel 7 article said that McNamee, a third-grader, had learned about same-sex families at school--not in the classroom, but rather on the playground, when he head some other kids making disparaging remarks about GLBTs.

McNamee later found out that a same-sex family lived in his own neighborhood, a lesbian couple who, in McNamee's eyes, were being treated unfairly because they were not allowed to marry.

McNamee decided to tackle the issue head-on for some school credit, and make organizing the rally a class project. School officials went along with the idea, though carefully, being sure to notify parents and keep involvement by others in the class strictly voluntary.

The rally took place at the capitol building in Denver, Colorado, which is the state's capitol city, reported.

The article said that McNamee's teacher adopted that same careful approach, making sure not to influence McNamee's thoughts on the matter but helping obtain the permit for the rally.

A May 17 Denver Post article quoted that teacher, Kyle Kimmel, as quipping, "He can do something like this, but he has trouble keeping a backpack together."

McNamee might have heard anti-gay language at school, but at home he was taught about respect. Said his mother, Tracy Edwards, "We constantly talk about how everyone is equal," the Post reported.

Added McNamee's mother, "He knew he had to get this done and make this happen."

The nine-year-old civil rights advocate addressed the crowd at the capitol building, reading, "I believe I am doing the right thing."

Added McNamee, "I hope this rally will make an impact and let our voices be heard."

McNamee also had a hand in his project from a local GLBT group.

Mindy Barton, who is the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Colorado's legal director, was quoted as saying, "He already had a lot of it figured out."

Added Barton, "There was no doubt Ethan was going to put together a rally on the steps of the Capitol."

One GLBT equality opponent, Republican state Sen. Shawn Mitchell, offered words of praise for the young man, saying, "You have to admire his compassion and initiative."

Added Mitchell, "I'd like to think that someday he'll understand the issue is a little more complicated."

Or maybe the opposite will happen: perhaps McNamee will help his elders see the simplicity of his message of fairness and equality.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.