I hope this letter finds you well and your day is off to a great start. You may not remember me, so allow me to reintroduce myself to you. I’m Dillon Peña, a former friend and acquaintance of your daughter Christina. I’ve been to your house in Northwest Oklahoma City. I’ve been to a festival at the Oklahoma River with you. I’ve broken bread and had dinner with you at Red Rock and you have even been to church with me. Although I am currently a New York City resident, Oklahoma remains the home of my heart.
I am an Oklahoma fan through and through. I cheer for the Thunder as well as OU and OSU. You see, Governor, I would love to move back to Oklahoma someday. However, today, Governor, in the eyes of the Great State of Oklahoma, my two brothers and I are not equal. When you recently ordered that same sex partners of the Oklahoma National Guard not receive the benefits they earned and that their heterosexual counterparts enjoy, you boldly declared that I am not equal in your eyes. Today, I have a job where I am excelling, but in Oklahoma I could be fired for simply being who I am. I could walk into any restaurant and be denied service for being who I am. Worst of all, if I was member of the Oklahoma National Guard I again would be reminded that somehow my sacrifice was not equal to that of others solely because I love a man and not a woman.
I was born and raised in the red dirt fields of western Oklahoma. The same place the seeds of the American dreams were planted for both my parents’ families. My mother hails from tough stock — farmers who braved and outlasted the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression when so many of their neighbors threw in the towel and headed west. With sweat and blood, they endured many droughts to raise their family on this land they loved. First generation Americans, my father’s parents were careful to maintain a connection to their Mexican heritage while deeply instilling a love, pride and appreciation for their new American country that gave them an opportunity for a better life. While raising a dozen children, my grandparents chopped endless rows of cotton until they saved enough money to open our family restaurant. Although my two sets of grandparents were culturally different, they both believed their families to be the bedrock of their success. Being in Oklahoma, close to my siblings and extended family would be a dream come true.
Governor, It pains me understanding that when you didn’t know I was gay, I was considered equal. It pains me to know that my beloved Oklahoma appears to be like 1960s Alabama — not moving forward, but rather, stagnantly marinating in prejudice and inequality no longer suited for our country. My prayer for you and for the State of Oklahoma is that you move forward on Civil Rights issues and certainly not take steps backwards. I pray in future news I read and hear that Oklahoma is not a state of condemnation, but one of acceptance.
I’ve heard it spoken from the pulpit of the church that when you stand for nothing, you fall for everything. I also know that when hate is spoken from that same pulpit, the words are no longer anointed. So in closing, since the Great State of Oklahoma makes me less than equal, I would like to remind you of Matthew 25:40; in which Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
I pray in the future you remember, since you are a Christian, to think of Jesus. How would he treat someone? I know in his eyes I am created just the same as you. And maybe someday I along with many others who have fled the state will be able to return to the place we call home.