Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lovitz: Why I came out in the jury box

Jonathan Lovitz
, 365gay contributor
If there was ever a time to marvel at social networking and its ability to engage people in meaningful dialogue, it’s today. From a simple Facebook status update, my story has traveled the globe, appearing in multiple languages everywhere from The Village Voice to Perez Hilton to international publications.  The positive response has been overwhelming.
I’ve received over 200 emails and calls from friends and complete strangers thanking me for my stand.

I couldn’t be more proud or honored.  However, I never set out to be an activist. Like I said on MSNBC, I’m just a young gay man who saw some inequality in the state and nation and said what was in my heart when I was asked for total candor by the judge.
I sat for two full days of juror questioning during voir dire, and when it was my turn, I simply answered, “I can’t possibly be an impartial judge of a citizen when I am considered a second class one in the eyes of this justice system.’’
Shaking and in shock that I’d ever say such a thing out loud, I quietly sat down while those around me had a mix of responses, from applauding and high-fives to snickers and eye-rolls. I was so proud to have shared my feelings with that jury room.
To clarify, I was not advocating  shirking one’s civic responsibilities.  We have taxes to pay and jury duty summonses we must obey. But when we are asked by a judge – or by anyone – about how we feel as citizens, it is our duty to note that with civic responsibilities come civic rights that we do not share. Knowing that, how could any of us possibly be impartial?
I’m hoping to now start a campaign encouraging all gay and lesbian citizens to make just such a statement.  Not to get out of jury service, but to make the point that when we have all the responsibilities but not all the rights of citizenship, then we indeed are second-class citizens.
We are too often expected to suffer such status in silence.
Anyone can applaud with a roomful of like-minded at a benefit or scream for rights in a Pride Parade.  However, speaking out in a roomful of strangers is when a dialogue of differing opinions can lead
to real change.
I sincerely hope someone in that jury box will remember what I said when the next bit of misinformation is repeated aloud about gay marriage and DOMA, and hopefully, they will take a stand of their own.

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