Tuesday, February 27, 2007

WY GOP's Dan Zwonitzer Shares Letters Received Over Pro-Gay Speech

What hath Dan Zwonitzer unleashed?

Lots of letters of love and praise from many people around the globe who took the time to write to him. I spoke with Dan today and asked for copies of some of the hundreds of letters he has received since bloggers, such as Pam Spaulding, Andrew Sullivan, myself and other bloggers, either posted the text of his speech or linked to it.

Dan sent along a few letters, and we agreed that I would delete the contact info and names of the writers. If you're one of the writers and WANT your name attached to what I've posted here, just let me know in the comments section.

If I were part of a larger gay advocacy organization, one fighting in Congress for better legal protections for us, and a group that had some bucks, I'd create the Zwonitzer Prize.

It would be to acknowledge the bravery of an under-30 person who's straight, and regardless of political affiliation, stands up, even when no one in the gay community is asking them to, and at risk to their person or career or reputation, stands up or acts or speaks in favor of simple basic gay equality.

I'm just a poor blogger who can't create awards out of thin air. The best I can do to honor Zwonitzer is to again say, thank you, Dan. You're really one person who makes America great.

And now, some of the letters he's received:

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, February 25, 2007 11:18 AM
Subject: Thank you for being an ally

> Dear Representative Zwonitzer:
> I don't really know how to thank you for your courage in opposing the
> the ban on recognizing same-sex unions in Wyoming. You said what
> needs to be said: that the fight for gay rights in this country is
> the Civil Rights struggle of our generation, and as such, we cannot
> turn away from this work. We cannot abandon issues so crucial to the
> daily life of men and women in this country to the hands of those who
> forget that equality threatens no-one.
> Two years ago, I performed the marriage of my uncle to his long-term
> partner in Massachusetts. They had been together 12 years before
> they were allowed to confirm the strength of their union before their
> loved ones and the laws of the commonwealth. Whenever I see anyone
> decrying gay families as being unstable, unhealthy, I think of those
> two men, waiting patiently for 12 years with their house and dogs and
> car payments and family surrounding them and I wonder, this is the
> greatest evil in our society? I think of them, and I think of how
> little they can travel and maintain their rights should something
> happen. I think of them, and I think of how much an issue that has
> no impact on the people who protest it so vehemently changes their
> every day life. And when I see people like you, people who have a
> great deal to lose by standing up for this basic civil right, the
> freedom to marry, I know that the fight is still going on, even in
> corners of the country where its unexpected. When I thought of
> Wyoming before, I thought of Laramie. Now, I will think of you.
> As Robert Kennedy once said: "Few will have the greatness to bend
> history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of
> events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the
> history of this generation." History remembers well the citizens who
> dare to do what is right rather than what is easy, convenient.
> History remembers Abolitionists, Suffragists, Freedom Riders, those
> who dared to go against the tide. And history will remember you as a
> man who went against the tide, as the man stood before the Wyoming
> legislature and said "No"--not for your benefit, but because it was
> the right thing to do. I hope that you will always, always do the
> right thing.
> Gratefully, and with highest admiration,
>> Silver Spring, MD

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, February 25, 2007 12:54 PM
Subject: Kudos!

Congratulations on your principled stand on the issue of gay marriage. In
today's political climate it seems that forced labels and ill-fitting
pigeonholes are the norm, and it is heartening to see a public servant doing
the job for which he was elected - to wit, representing the people. I
believe you are correct, this is the most important civil rights battle of
our era. More importantly I hope that through the course of this battle we
can move a little closer to developing a social framework that asks the
questions, "Is this fair? Who is being helped by this? Who is being hurt by
this?" and perhaps resolve future civil rights issues in a healthier and
faster way. One can hope that someday we well never hear stories like the 72
year old man in Detroit who was beaten to death for being gay.

I am not gay but it pains me to take part in a society that is being so ugly
and unfair to fellow humans. Congratulations again, and I hope your message
of tolerance and hope spreads throughout your legislative body and your

Best regards,

----- Original Message -----
To: dzwonitzer@wyoming.com
Sent: Monday, February 26, 2007 3:26 PM
Subject: Kudos

Dear Representative Zwonitzer --

Even though I live in Washington state, I want to thank you for your vocal and principled stance on LGBT civil rights. Even though I tend to vote Democrat, I hold out no less hope for the improvement of the Republican party. After all, all Americans’ fortunes are bound up with the decisions of lawmakers and judges throughout the political spectrum. Washington struggles with this issue too, and Oregon suffered a heartbreaking setback a few years ago, as you probably recall. (I can remember the joy of a friend of mine, a Wiccan priest, who was so honored and moved to officiate at many marriages during Portland’s brief period of allowing them – as well as the pain he felt when the ban came crashing back into place, just after he had proposed to his own longtime partner.) So again, even though I’m technically removed from your constituency, I think the effects of your actions are felt many miles away. My husband, as a Republican voter, hopes so greatly for the emergence of more Republicans he can fully support; as it is, he must usually choose between someone who shares his fiscal views but will set civil rights back, or vice versa.

I’m also encouraged to hear from a legislator who goes to the history when considering a present-day issue, and who is both willing to acknowledge parallels when they occur and determined not to repeat the mistakes of past generations.

I hope you’re supported by all those in Wyoming who wish to see civil rights continue to advance in the 21st century.

Many thanks,


----- Original Message -----
To: dzwonitzer@wyoming.com
Sent: Tuesday, February 27, 2007 12:43 AM
Subject: Thanks for your vote.

Dear Representative Zwonitzer,

I'm a life-long Democrat, and I want to thank you for the courage to vote to defeat the bill banning same-sex unions.

I am a straight man, married for almost 30 years, so I can only guess how difficult life is for people who are gay, especially those who want to commit to a long-term relationship.

But as a society, it's important that we be able to empathize with the plight of others, even if we can't completely understand what they're going through..

Without empathy, intolerance can emerge from a blindness to that other person's humanity.

I've had difficultly finding common ground with Republican folks I know lately. I'm encouraged to find that you and I seem to share a common belief in the importance of equal rights for all of our citizens, regardless of sexual preference.
I have hope that a generation from now, this time of fear and hatred of gays will be looked at as a sad, dark period, only signicant in a historical context..

Thank you again,

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, February 25, 2007 5:11 AM
Subject: In Regards and Appreciation

>I am gay, 25, and currently staying up late tending to my husband as
> he deals with a fever. We were married in San Francisco during the
> big brouhaha in 2004 in a ceremony that was at once both meaningless
> and the most important event of my life. While he's napping and
> seeing if the fever continues to recede, I've been catching up on my
> blogs and came across a writeup of your speech on pandagon.net. I
> just wanted to convey my deepest thanks to you for taking such an
> important and (sadly) bold stand. While I'd never dare imply that
> standing in the rain for six hours while getting preached at by a
> single earnest young man and receiving coffee, pizza, and flowers from
> total strangers could possibly compare to attack dogs, fire hoses, and
> arrest, I do believe that in 30 years this era will be viewed with the
> same sense of "How could they think like that?" unreality and
> disbelief that the Civil Rights Era is viewed by us today.
> I am married. I've stood before a preacher and God and sworn my
> undying love and devotion to another human being and nothing can
> change that. No law, no amendment, no speech, and no slander. They
> cannot take away the home hunting, good morning kisses on the way to
> work, paying the bills, walking the dog, shopping for furniture,
> figuring out who gets the remote, and the thousands of other things
> that make us married. All that they can do is ensure that we have to
> file our taxes separately, and that if I ever get into an accident, my
> husband will not be allowed into the hospital room to hold my hand one
> last time.
> And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for understanding that.


----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, February 26, 2007 1:38 PM
Subject: Equality Speech


I'm not from your state, but I wanted to let you
know that I read the speech you made on equality for
same-sex couples. It was so beautiful that I cried.
I cannot express how much it means to me that there
are politicians like you who see this issue for what
it truly is.

Thank you,
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, February 26, 2007 12:39 PM
Subject: Congratulations

I am not in your voting district - heck, I'm not even in your state -
but what I read today makes me wish I were. You would get my vote for
the rest of your career.

I applaud you for making the point in your speech that this is about
equality and basic rights, rather than stooping to the arguments thrown
about by the intolerant people who support bills of this kind. We need
more politicians who are willing to do what you did - recognize the
truth of the issue, and stand up for what is right regardless of
personal opinion or party line.

I know you're getting a lot of hate mail about your speech. Please don't
take it to heart. You did absolutely the right thing, said absolutely
the correct words, and you deserve every ounce of positive recognition
you get from this. I hope that you can continue to follow your own
example during the rest of your hopefully long career.

Good luck, and thank you.

Sent: Saturday, February 24, 2007 10:35 PM
Subject: Kudos

Dear Rep. Zwonitzer, I am a straight old lady in WA. I am old enough to be your grandmother and was on the front lines 40 years ago. I just read your speech linked to at the Andrew Sullivan site and wanted to tell you that I think the speech you gave was just wonderful. I'm proud that a smart young man like you is now carrying the torch of equality.
Thank you very much for sticking up for our gay citizens. You're right you know, it is the fair thing to do. It is also the American thing to do.
To: "Dan Zwonitzer"
Sent: Friday, February 23, 2007 3:29 PM
Subject: Thank You for Your Defense of Gay Rights

Dear Mr. Zwonitzer,

I felt the need to write to you and express my gratitude for your
recent speech concerning gay rights. I am a white man married to a
black woman, and I view the current issue of gay marriage to be the
same as my own situation could have been in the very recent past. I
am only 45, but in my lifetime (though not my adult lifetime) it was
illegal in several states for my wife and I to be married.

Laws like this are disgusting, repugnant, and have no place in a free
society. We have friends who are gay in committed relationships, yet
they are denied the bond and the rights that my wife and I share all
because narrow minded people want to force others to live by their own
rules. Gay marriage will have virtually no impact on their own lives,
yet they passionately fight it. This is bigotry, plain and simple.

If you should lose your seat over this, maybe you'll consider coming
to Pennsylvania. We can always use a good person who actually
understands and lives the definition of morality, rather than those
who proclaim morality but wouldn't know it if it hit them in the

Thank you again.

Sent: Friday, February 23, 2007 3:47 PM
Subject: GO DAN!!!

Hey Bro
I just got call from Cain and read the Andrew Sullivan blog about the stand you took on equal rights. I just wanted to write and tell you how proud I am to call you a friend and an elected representative. I thought your words and thoughts were exactly on point, and the passion with which you conveyed your message was entirely justified. No matter what happens (and I personally don't think you'll lose your seat over this, but you know the tenor of your folks better than I) you will always know that you stood up for the good side of, like you said, the civil rights issue of our time.
So, like the subject like says, Go Dan!! Thanks for making us proud, my friend. You're a credit to the parents who raised you, the tradition of equality in the state you call home, the tradition of the college that trained you, and the crazy drunken roommates who spent 4 years liberalizing you (kinda kidding about that last part ... but only kinda :-) ).
I hope all is well -- let me know how things develop.
All the best,
Sent: Saturday, February 24, 2007 8:15 AM
Subject: thank you for standing up

Dear Representative Zwonitzer,

I'm writing from Portugal, where I am now living as an American expatriate. I am one of the individuals whose rights you stood up for during the committee hearing on the bill banning recognition of same sex marriages.

My partner is a Portuguese native who loves her country. I'm a native of the fair state of Oregon, and love my state, my friends and my family very much. When it came time to choose which of us would leave our home, the fact that we would both have fewer civil rights in the United States than in Portugal weighed heavily in our decision.

It is deeply embarrassing to me to witness this march of progress in western Europe and other parts of the world while knowing that my own nation cannot match it; indeed, it appears to be moving the opposite direction. As an expatriate, I get a lot of questions about my nation's laws and international behaviors, and more often than not I simply cannot explain to anyone's satisfaction. The fact that I am now living here is, I think, a fairly strong statement in and of itself.

So, on behalf of myself, my wife, my child and millions of others, I thank you for your principled stand. To take such a stand knowing that it might cost you your seat is an act of great strength and integrity, and oh, how I wish there were more like you in both parties! It is people like you who can and do make a difference. Though you may receive a bushel of hate mail for standing up, I hope you'll also receive some letters like this one to balance things out. Letters that say, "We respect you, we appreciate you, and we admire you." Because we do.

And by the way, do you think you could give some ethics lessons to the current field of candidates for President?

Best regards,
Sent: Saturday, February 24, 2007 8:17 AM
Subject: Thank you, and congratulations...

> Thank you sir, for continuing the proud tradition, often forgotten,
> of Wyoming's concern for civil rights. The state that first gave
> women the right to vote should be proud of you for standing up for
> what is right in the debate on Gay marriage.
> Your courage sets an excellent example for us all, and reminds us
> that there are decent, brave human beings out there doing the right
> thing.
> Best wishes in the coming year, and I won't be surprised if you are
> re-elected by an overwhelming majority. The Wyomingites I know
> quietly do the right thing, and recognize quality people. They don't
> just shout about it; they live it. And those Wyomingites will vote
> for you.
> Sincerely,
Sent: Saturday, February 24, 2007 12:54 PM
Subject: Thank you

Rep. Zwonitzer,

I read in the news about your vote to kill the bill that would limit recognition of same-sex marriages in Wyoming. Thank you.

Two years ago, my partner was in a terrible accident and is now permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Sitting outside the emergency room, waiting all night to find out whether she would survive was terrifying, but I was also scared the hospital would not let me see her when the surgery was over. To my relief, I was let into the ICU, where I spent days by her side, giving her chips of crushed ice from a spoon.

We’ve been through a long journey together. It’s been scary and sad and hopeful. My employer recognizes our relationship, so I was able to spend time with my partner in rehab. I was able to help her learn to dress and move again. My work offers domestic partner benefits, so we had insurance that covered her surgery and recovery without plunging us into bankruptcy. She’s doing well now. Though she will probably never walk again, she’s at work, playing wheelchair tennis, taking our dogs to the park, and wheeling my niece and nephew around in her lap.

I cannot tell you how much harder this would have been if we’d had to hide. I think often about couples like us, who live in places where people are scared of same-sex couples or hateful about them, and I worry so much about them. I hope that one day our society lets people who love each other take care of each other. Everywhere.



Sent: Saturday, February 24, 2007 3:31 PM
Subject: Sending my thanks

Representative Zwonitzer,

Through the political blogs that I frequent I learned of your stance against the amendment to your state's constitution to ban same-sex marriage. I am not one of your constituents, nor am I a member of your party; I am a student in California one year your junior, and I identify as a homosexual. After reading your speech given to your fellow legislators defending your "no" vote, and after recognizing the risks taken by someone in your position by doing so, I wanted to send you my thanks and express my admiration.

Recently it's been difficult for me to watch politics unfold in states across our nation where opponents of same-sex marriage are out for blood, promoting state constitutional amendments that don't simply ban same-sex "marriage," but that instead ban all similar and "lesser" state-recognized unions, and even more so, demonstrating a complete lack of compassion, prevent any marriage-related benefits and protections from being required for same-sex couples. In many states this means the loss of progress already made for the rights and opportunities of LGBT citizens.

I've always looked to the future and seen a time where people will look back and wonder what we were thinking, and wonder how an argument about "sanctity of marriage" had anything in the world to do with, say, hospital visitation rights. Now, during what seems to be a resurgence of anti-gay sentiment in politics, your words and your actions strengthen my belief that our our society is progressing on these issues.



Sent: Saturday, February 24, 2007 4:12 PM
Subject: Well done, sir

Dear Representative Zwonitzer,

I'm an Australian citizen in Sydney who just read a blog report of your
speech in favour of marriage equality. I admire your words and your
stand greatly.

I can debate the specifics of this bill back and forth as everyone in
this room can, but I won’t because the overall theme is fairness, and
you know it.

I know from an excerpt from an email you sent to the blogger that you
are concerned about how the rest of the US and the world views Wyoming
as in some ways backwards. Your speech will go a great way towards
countering that perception, and moderate Republicans such as yourself
also remind us that the GOP has been in some ways hijacked by extremists
who don't represent the history and ideals of your party accurately or

You are a remarkable leader in this issue, and I hope you continue to
have the chance to serve and lead against bigotry and unfairness. I'm a
religious skeptic, but my thoughts and blessings go with you nonetheless.

Respectful regards,

The blog post I read: [

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