I have a new hero today, a young man named William Sleaster. This happened in early September 2007, but I didn’t find out about it until today in early September 2008, which is kind of confusing to keep pointing out, so let’s throw caution to the wind and treat it like it happened today. It’ll be an adventure!
The set up: John McCain photo op/Q&A session with high school kids.
The place: Concord High School in Concord, New Hampshire.
The problem: John McCain is a bigot who doesn’t know what LGBT means.
The other problem: The brave William Sleaster, bisexual sophomore at Concord, is at the microphone.
Let the games begin!
I’m pulling from two sources, beginning with the New York Times:
William Sleastor, 16, asked Mr. McCain what he planned to do about “L.G.B.T. rights.” When Mr. McCain looked puzzled, the student explained that the initials stand for “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.”
“I had not heard that phrase before,” Mr. McCain said.
A national leader who has voted on (usually against) legislation on civil rights for LGBT people doesn’t even know what LGBT stands for? If that isn’t evidence of McCain being a bit out of touch, I don’t know what is.
Returning to the Concord exchange with CNN’s truncated transcript:
SLEASTER: Do you support civil unions or gay marriage?
MCCAIN: I do not. I do not. I think that they impinge on the status and the sanctity of marriage between man and woman.
SLEASTER: So you want to take away someone’s rights because what you believe it’s wrong?
MCCAIN: I don’t put that interpretation an my position, but I understand yours.
It could have ended there, but in a bold move, Mr. Sleaster pressed forward. Again from CNN’s interview transcript:
MCCAIN: You want to have one more? You’re doing great.
SLEASTER: I came here looking to see a good leader. I don’t.
Sleaster was immediately booed by other students and a teacher pulled him aside. The story was picked up by CNN and others, and some (including CNN anchor Kiran Chetry, in a disappointingly inappropriate exchange) called him disrespectful, on which I disagree. To begin with, McCain’s “You want to have one more?” line was not intended as a compliment, as Chetry claimed. It was a not-so-subtle “you annoy me, kid” delivered because Sleaster had asked several questions already.
That aside, the opinion that the federal government should withhold civil rights from a minority group should be challenged.
If anyone’s being disrespectful here, it’s John McCain. He’s disrespectful of me by claiming that my theoretical legal marriage to a man causes damage to his legal marriage to a woman. It’s disrespectful to suggest that the legal contract of marriage has any impact whatsoever on non-legal religious marriage.
So good on ya, William Sleaster. Keep fighting for what’s right. Keep holding their feet to the fire. And keep living your life without compromising your self.