In an incredibly moving display of support, the parents of dead solider Andrew Wilfahrt are standing up for complete civil rights for the gay community in America.
Andrew Wilfahrt died in Afghanistan at the age of 31 and is believed to be the first gay US solider to die in battle since Obama signed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. CNN has done a wonderfully touching job covering the story of his parents, Jeff and Lori, and their newfound crusade for gay rights in the United States.
Andrew’s death, and unique situation as a gay man fighting abroad in the US Army, offers a different tactic against the anti-gay conservatives. It becomes very difficult to make an argument against gay rights when you have a gay man who died fighting for a country that denies his right to marry the person he loves.
Says his father:
Andrew has left us a great gift by virtue of his death. We have an opportunity to play, in effect, a trump card here. This is a solider who died in defense of this country. And it’s gonna be pretty hard for anyone to argue against what he did for the sake of us all as a citizen.
Why is it that had our son had a son had a significant other in his life, they would not have received that death benefit or the opportunity to go to Dover to receive his remains?
Love is love. Just as the whites went into the South over the civil rights issue, right now what this community needs are heteros to show up on their behalf, and say, look: these are my people that you are trying to discriminate against.
From CNN’s inspiring, beautiful and heart-wrenching article:
In a state that has produced GOP presidential hopefuls Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty — who have made careers fighting gay marriage — these parents of an American hero present a major challenge to the establishment.
They’ll take their battle to the Supreme Court, if that’s what it takes. To the Wilfahrts, denying gays the right to marry is discrimination against a group to which their son belonged.
Jeff has asked Lady Gaga to come to Minnesota to dance a same-sex marriage polka. He skipped a recent White House tea with the first lady held for families of service members. He wanted to send a message to the Obama administration: My son gave his life for his country, yet didn’t have full rights back home.
On a recent spring day, the couple stood outside the Capitol while lawmakers inside prepared to debate marriage. The legislators voted, largely along party lines, to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot for November 2012 to define marriage as solely between a man and woman.
Jeff had never spoken much publicly before eulogizing his son. He began by telling the crowd, “If I hold my finger up, I’m gonna be crying. When you see that, I need to pause.”
A few minutes later, his finger dangled in the breeze. His voice cracked. “I challenge the one-man, one-woman champions to define manliness or womanhood. Will you as a human being, as an American, as a Minnesotan, be asked to open your trousers or to have your skirt lifted when applying for a license to marry?
” … I hope my son didn’t die for human beings, for Americans, for Minnesotans who would deny him civil rights.”
On this day, in the grandstands of the pride parade, the Wilfahrts will celebrate their son’s identity as both a gay man and a soldier. It’s the type of event that would stun Bachmann and Pawlenty: More than 100,000 gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders and straights gathered in their home state, celebrating life and obeying the law. A Minneapolis police car led the parade, two officers waving to the jubilant crowd.
The night before, Jeff, 58, and Lori, 56, wondered if they were doing the right thing by coming. Their son was so private, would he want his mom and dad to speak out?
Within minutes today, they get their answer. “Thank you for you and your son’s service,” a man says, offering a hug to Lori. Tears well in the parents’ eyes.
Another stranger, Laurie Kermes, holds Lori’s hand. “Your son did a lot. He’s not going to be lost in vain.”
Soon, a float goes by carrying two poster-sized photographs of Andrew in Army camo. “That’s our boy!” Jeff says.
He and Lori embrace. Their heads tilt toward the ground, two exhausted parents missing their son.