Stephanie Bell, a friend that Josh and I know through college debate, posted this beautifully-written and touching open letter to Kim Pearson, a sponsor of the bill in the Iowa House to amend the Constitution to ban not only gay marriage, but also civil unions and domestic partnerships. Pearson, incidentally, is also one of the three newly-elected Republican state representatives drafting articles of impeachment against the remaining four Iowa Supreme Court justices (who were not removed in the last election). This is retaliation against that Court for unanimously upholding a ruling in 2009 that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa.
Steph, a Des Moines native, babysat her neighbor Kim Pearson’s kids when she was in middle school. I excerpted my favorite parts of the letter below, and I encourage everyone to read the full letter, here.
This is your former neighbor, Stephanie Bell, writing you from a long ways away—Oxford, England, to be specific. I hope this letter finds you, Bryan, Monica, and Morgan well. I know it’s been a long time since we were last in touch, but my mother suggested I reach out to you and let you know what I’ve been up to since you knew me as a middle schooler, over a decade ago…
You may be wondering why, over a decade down the road, I decided to contact you with what I’ve been up to and my meditations on and pride in my home state of Iowa. Part of it is to congratulate you on your election to the House, and to thank you for serving our state. And the other part of it is to make a plea, from one good neighbor to another.
Kim, I’m gay. I figured it out in the middle of my senior year of high school, and I stayed in the closet until I graduated. I adored Valley, but I also knew it wasn’t the most tolerant of places. My life was running too smoothly to rock the boat. I was so honored when I was elected to speak at graduation and I was on friendly terms with nearly everyone in my class. I was afraid all of that would end if I came out. I told my mother before I left for college, and I waited two years before telling my dad because I was so worried about how he would react…
Coming out to my parents was hardly easy, but thankfully, they know what I know: that I’m the same person I was before I realized I was gay. I have the same sense of humor, the same love for my family and sense of responsibility toward them. My relationships with my parents and sister are stronger than they’ve ever been. The fact that the one time in my short life I was in love, I was in love with a woman has done nothing to change my personality, or my belief in the value of service that I know you and I share. I remain the same good neighbor—to you, and to the world—that I’ve always been. I thought Iowa understood this too.