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Rita Schiano

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War Zone, Backing Out of Hell
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Woman’s Idea Sparks Grassroots Effort
Thursday, July 05, 2007  6:49:00 PM

by Rita Schiano

Massachusetts residents ask for 4 minutes and 50 seconds of legislators’ time on gay marriage issue

Sturbridge, MA (PRWEB) February 27, 2004--On Sunday morning, February 15, Sturbridge, MA resident Rita Schiano heard the song Tuesday Morning, by Melissa Etheridge. "I had the CD playing while I was getting ready for church. When Tuesday Morning came on I started to sob, thoroughly overcome by the powerful message of the song. I'd been moved by songs before, but this was different. And I knew immediately what I had to try and do."

Schiano had the idea to send a copy of the song to every member of the 183rd General Court. "I thought if the members who were sitting on the fence regarding the gay marriage issue, or who were thinking about changing their vote and accept the civil unions compromise heard this song, they would understand that this issue is about human rights, civil rights."

Through luck and perseverance Schiano contacted Melissa Etheridge via her manager, Josh Leopold of W. S. Leopold Management in Burbank, CA. "Less than 48 hours later I had Melissa Etheridge’s complete blessing and permission to duplicate up to 300 units." They also negotiated on Schiano’s behalf to secure permission from the recording company. "Josh asked about the group behind this effort. I responded, ‘You’re talking to the group…me.’"

Tuesday Morning recounts Mark Bingham’s role in bringing down hijacked Flight 93 on September 11, 2001. "Mark was a gay man. After the events of September surviving domestic partners of the 9/11 victims were granted benefits. Why? Because the terror that attacked our country that day united us as a people. But now, gay Americans are again being set apart. Are being asked to accept less. What happened in the past two-and-one-half years to turn us from a united people into a divided one?" Schiano wondered.

"I planned to include a letter to the General Court with the CD and wondered if people would be willing to attach their names to it. I talked with a few friends and the support overwhelmed me."

On Sunday, seven days after Schiano had her idea, a dozen people gathered at her home to discuss a strategy for gathering names. "I told everyone that my goal was to have thousands of names attached to my letter. And that we had eight days to do it." The names have been coming in by the hundreds each day.

Schiano’s intent is to deliver the CD, her letter and names to the Statehouse "on Monday, March 8. On Tuesday morning, March 9, I’ve asked the people to call or e-mail their Representative and Senator. Ask if they’ve listened to the song, and if not to please give you "4 minutes and 50 seconds of their time" – the length of the song.

"I also hope that the song will be played and that my letter will be read at the Constitutional Convention. I hope, too, that radio stations across the country will give air- time to Tuesday Morning," Schiano said.

Residents of Massachusetts, 16 years of age or older, may add their name by sending Schiano an e-mail stating the following: "Please add my name to Rita Schiano’s Open Letter to the Members of the 183rd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts." List your name and city/town. Names are being collected through Friday, March 5.

"Please call or e-mail your local Representative and Senator on Tuesday, March 9 and ask the following: Have you received your CD? Have you listened to it? If not, Please give me 4 minutes and 50 seconds of your time and do so." Schiano added.

The Letter:
An Open Letter to the Members of the 183rd General Court of the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts:

We are asking for 4 minutes and 50 seconds of your time...the time it will take to listen to this recording of Tuesday Morning by Melissa Etheridge. In doing so, we hope our voices will be heard through her voice.

Tuesday Morning is dedicated to Mark Bingham, his family and friends. Mark and three other passengers on Flight 93 stood bravely and faced the terror aboard their airplane on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001. United, they forced the crash-landing in a field in Pennsylvania.

Mark was an American. He stood up with three other Americans and together they did what they knew was right. And their actions saved the lives of many Americans that day. Now is our time to stand up and do what is right.

Mark was a gay man – a man denied the 1,049 benefits and protections available to married Americans. Yet, shortly after the events of September 11 our government recognized and awarded benefits to surviving domestic partners of the 9/11 victims. Why? Because the terror that attacked our country that day united us as a people. But now, gay Americans are again being set apart. What happened in the past two-and-one-half years to turn us from a united people into a divided one?

We ask that you recognize and protect the rights of gay Americans in our Commonwealth. Recognize and protect the rights of citizens who are asking for nothing more than, and nothing less than, equality. Marriage brings to the table a full banquet of rights. Civil unions do not. Let there be no crumbs at this table.

Mark Bingham gave America the last 4 minutes and 50 seconds of his life. Please, give us the same amount of time. Listen to this song with an open heart, and with an open mind.

Rita Schiano, Sturbridge, MA
and the following citizens of the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Rita Schiano

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