THE POWER To Win Equality Is In A Single Phone Call

Today full marriage equality for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender citizens lies in persuding a few state legislators who initially voted against marriage equality to support the vote to override Governor Jim Douglas’s expected veto. You have THE POWER  to get that single vote we need. Your voice and your story are more POWERful that the fact sheets and legal arguments by any of our LGBT lobbying organizations.

Back in the spring of 1990 I was still living in RI and planning my move to NYC. Massachusetts had recently passed a gay rights law and RI was giving it another try. Previously the our bill passed the House and died in the State Senate. This year we introduced the bill into the Senate first. The vote looked very tight with the probability of narrow defeat. My Senator was Charlie Donovan Sr. I went to the same school as his son, Charlie Jr. who was a few years younger. My dad was one of Jr.’s teachers. I got Sen. Donovan’s home number from my parents and nervously called. The answering machine picked up and the taped messaged rolled as I blanked on what to say. The vote was tomorrow so I had to say something to the machine. When the voice gave way to a shrill beep I blurted out “Mr. Donovan, this is Jon Winkleman, Murray’s son, and I’m gay.” I didn’t have a fact sheet to reason with logic or the morality of equal rights. I told him I went to school with Charlie Jr. and I can get fired from my job just cause I’m gay. Also my landlord can evict me from my apartment just because I’m gay. Tomorrow you are really voting on my life. I begged him to support the bill and hung up as the second beep interrupted me.

My friends in the RI Alliance for Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights said Rep. Charlie Donovan Sr. was on record as a solid “NO” to LGBT equality but thanked me for making the call. The next day the gay rights bill passed the State Senate. My friend Padric called elated “I don’t know what you said Winkleman but Donovan flipped and voted ‘YES’.” The bill passed the Senate by ONE VOTE. The victory was ephemeral as national religious right groups then flooded RI with money and lobbyists. The Religious Right didn’t get any House members to change their vote. Still they did managed to pressure enough weak supporters to miss the roll call and in 1990 RI’s gay rights bill died in a tied vote in the House. 

I moved to NYC a short time later and never had the opportunity to ask Sen. Charlie Donovan Sr. if he even listened to my message. Did my story change his mind? I never found out. Since then I’ve been afraid to NOT come out to my elected officials. I fear the one call I do not make could lose tlose that one vote we needed. Coming out to my parents made my family life better. Coming out to your elected officials will make the whole world better for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people.

If you want to see marriage in Vermont, YOU MUST come out to the 10 Democrats who voted against marriage equality but who may still be pushed to supporting the Vermont Democratic Party’s attempt to override Douglas’s veto.


If you want to see full LGBT Equality across the country, YOU MUST  come out to every elected official you can and tell them your personal story. You have  THE POWER. Your story is more POWERful than HRC. YOU can change the world.


Jon Winkleman

Jon Winkleman



One Response to “THE POWER To Win Equality Is In A Single Phone Call”

  1. The Gay Children in America need hope and something to live for. So many will take their own lives because they believe this world does not accept them. Marriage is a sure way to let all Gay Children know that they are valued and have an equal right to the pursuit of happiness promised by America.

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