Meet Ethan. He's nine and in Mr. Kimmal's third-grade class at the Montclair School of Academics and Enrichment in west Denver. He likes soccer, football, baseball, basketball, swimming and skiing. But his favorite thing to do after school is read, especially the Harry Potter books.
Oh, and tomorrow at noon -- in between baseball, soccer and a graduation party -- he's throwing a rally in support of gay marriage on the steps of the state Capitol. "They're the same as other people," he says of gays and lesbians, in the high-pitched, sincere voice of an elementary schooler. "They just love somebody else."
Ethan has already lined up speakers from The GLBT Community Center of Colorado, PFLAG and other organizations, and can rattle them off when asked. He's contacted Mayor John Hickenlooper -- he can't be there -- and Senator Michael Bennet, who Ethan thinks is trying to give him the runaround. "I e-mailed him tons of times. I called him a couple times. I confronted him personally," Ethan says, sounding exasperated. "He never gave me a straight answer."
Welcome to politics, kid. But Ethan isn't giving up. He's sticking with it for the same reason he hatched this idea in the first place: He thinks it's wrong that his neighbors, who are gay, can't get married. "I just didn't think it was very fair that people couldn't get married just because the person they wanted to get married to was the same gender as them," Ethan says.
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But thinking wasn't enough for Ethan. He wanted to do something about it. He'd been to a rally for President Obama, and liked what he saw. "It just popped into my mind," he says. "I was just like, 'Mom, I want to do a rally for marriage equality...' My teacher thought it was going to be a rally in front of the school, but I told him it was going to be in front of the Capitol."
His teacher, Kyle Kimmal, wasn't too surprised when Ethan's mom told him about her son's idea. After all, this is a kid who reads at a high-school level and routinely thinks big thoughts, he says. So while his classmates are doing projects on dogs or sports, Ethan is doing one on marriage equality.
"It's not a normal topic for a third-grader to be doing, but on the other hand, working with Ethan and knowing his passions, most of his life is outside the box," Kimmal says. "It seemed like something natural for him."
Ethan's mom, Tracy Edwards, says she wasn't surprised, either. "We talk about it a lot," she says of gay marriage. "We talk about everyone being equal. It's a big part of our lives and we have a lot of diverse friends." But, she adds, "I never thought it would get to this point."
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Ethan did. He wanted to tie the timing of the rally to the release of the California Supreme Court's decision on Prop 8, which overturned a previous ruling to legalize same-sex marriage. (He's been following the issue with help from the internet and Mr. Kimmal.)
But because the court only gives 24 hours advance notice, he and the folks at The GLBT Community Center of Colorado, which is helping organize the rally, decided it would be better to just pick a date and go for it. They chose tomorrow and, according to Ethan, "a lady from Mayor Hickenlooper's office" rushed the approval of his request to designate May 16 Equal Marriage and Protection Day.
Ethan will be one of the speakers at the rally, which is expected to last about an hour. (Ethan says he doesn't want to bore people with a really long event.) He's been practicing his five-minute speech, but he's still nervous. His favorite line? That everyone is equal no matter their race, religion or sexual orientation.
"He totally gets it," his mother says. "For him, it's clear. It's black and white. We're all the same."