In July of 2005, there was an unimportant baseball game. It wasn’t a playoff game. The teams weren’t even all that good. The Marlins were seven games back of the Atlanta Braves and the Cubs…well, they were the Cubs.
A rookie named Adam Greenberg made his debut that night, which isn’t on its own anything altogether impressive. No one becomes an all-star after one at bat.
But that’s not the point.
Major league ballplayers have spent every waking moment of their lives training, practicing, dreaming; the first and last thought of the day, and most of the time in between, spent wondering what it would be like to actually make it. From tee ball, to softball, to little league, to high school and collegiate level play, to being shipped between farm teams in the minor leagues; “making it” requires a special breed of dedication.
Very few make it into a major league uniform. To fans of the game, it’s special to see it when they do.
Greenberg was a ninth round draft pick out of North Carolina in 2002. He worked his way up from the Lansing Lugnuts, to the Daytona Cubs, to the West Tennessee Diamond Jacks.
That July night, he became a Chicago Cub.
With his mom snapping photos in the stands, the lefty squared up to the plate against the Marlins’ hard throwing Valerio de los Santos.
The pitch was a 92 mile-per-hour fastball. But de los Santos lost his grip. The ball hit the back of Greenberg’s head as the 24-year-old tried to turn away.
CBS did a story on the injury:
He had a concussion; he fought vertigo for a year and a half, suffered migraines, vision problems, and depression….
“The greatest moment and time in my life was matched at the exact same time by the worst thing that could possibly happen,” he said.
In attendance the night of the injury was Matt Liston, a Cubs fan and filmmaker. He was “haunted” by the event and launched a nationwide effort to bring Greenberg back to the plate.
More than 27,000 people signed his petition. The team he faced in 2005, the Marlins, granted him a one-day contract. On October 2 of last year, seven years and countless struggles after his first attempt, Greenberg got his major league at bat. He called the moment magical.
He struck out.
But that wasn’t the point.
This Tuesday, the Alaska State Legislature will hold a hearing on State Representative Beth Kerttula’s (D-Juneau) House Bill 139. The legislation seeks to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
Protecting civil rights for LGBT Alaskans is far from a new concept. Several attempts have been made at the state and local level only to fall short of becoming law. The elected officials currently holding off in Juneau make it highly doubtful that this bill will buck the trend. At least not this session. HB139 probably won’t pass out of the first committee that hears it, the House State Affairs Committee.
During last year’s Primary, anti-gay activist Jim Minnery released the Alaska Family Action Values Voter Guide. One of the questions directly addressed Kerttula’s legislation: “[Do you] Oppose adding ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ as special protected classes under Alaska civil rights law?”
Four of the seven committee members – Wes Keller (R-Wasilla), Lynn Gattis (R-Wasilla), Shelley Hughes (R-Palmer), Doug Isaacson (R-North Pole) – answered yes.
The remaining three, state representatives Bob Lynn (R-Anchorage), Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage), and Jonathan Kriess-Tomkins (D-Sitka), did not partake in the questionnaire.
Kriess-Tomkins is a cosponsor of the anti-discrimination bill. He is the lone for-sure “yes” vote.
Lynn’s personal blog offers a snippet of sunlight. In 2007, he opined:
The most controversial issues this session were probably the gas pipeline, ethics, senior benefits, and benefits for “same sex partners.”
Note the placement of the scare quotes.
In 2009, Lynn also referred to an Obama appointee as a “radical homosexual.”
Millett doesn’t have a record on the issue, other than being one of the House Majority’s members present and smiling during the laugh heard round the world.
In a year plagued by legislation ranging from blatantly unconstitutional to just simply stupid, the odds are that Kerttula’s legislation won’t go anywhere. It’s a rational bill in an irrational legislature.
I hope I’m wrong. But HB139 is likely to strike out.
But that’s not the point.
Kerttula’s bill opens a door. This bill isn’t new. The Juneau Democrat introduced it last year too, as HB165. It went to State Affairs, where it never got a hearing.
Never before has the Alaska state legislature actually had a hearing on a bill that would protect LGBT Alaskans against discrimination. Never before have our family, friends, and neighbors who have lost jobs or been denied housing, solely because of who they are, been afforded the chance to tell their story in an official capacity, in support of a legal remedy that begins to catch us up with the 21st century.
Progress is slow, and often frustrating, incremental change. I would love to believe that truth spoken to power will result in members of State Affairs embracing a change of heart. I’d love to believe our lawmakers were giving this measure a hearing based on the weight of its own legitimacy, and not to save face after their dim views on the topic went viral. I would love to see this desperately needed bill eclipse both chambers and somehow avoid the Governor’s veto. I’m all about being pleasantly surprised. And I really, really hope that’s what happens.
But I’m also indescribably stoked to see this actually get the hearing it so richly deserves. Even if only symbolic, it’s another step. A huge push towards towards recognizing the constitutional rights being denied to Alaskans. A push towards justice that keeps getting knocked down by big, stupid fastballs thrown by people who’ve lost their grip.
Add your voice. Make sure we keep heading in the right direction. Step by painstakingly tread step. Equal rights for all Alaskans.
That’s the point.