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Nebraska teenage politico responsible for gay marriage initiative

By Riley S. Huskey
Sunday, November 27, 2011
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One year after filing the initiative petition to end the same-sex marriage prohibition in the state of Nebraska, Chris Dyer, 18, is more dedicated than ever in reaching the required 112,877 signatures to place the Constitutional amendment repeal onto the 2012 ballot.

…And the number of signatures required grows each day until the legal deadline for collection passes, because more Nebraskans register to vote every day.

Chris Dyer

“The idea — the true process for filing this petition — began back in ninth grade,” Chris said. “It was after I watched the movie Boys Don’t Cry that I knew I had to do this.”

Three years after that idea, at age 17, Chris met with Tom Frye, who took to this young man’s interest for politics, aided in the necessary research and by sponsoring the initiative petition alongside Chris, the fight for repeal of Article I, Section 29, of the Nebraska State Constitution came to fruition.

Section 29 reads as follows:

Marriage; Same-Sex Relationships Not Valid or Recognized

“Only marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized in Nebraska. The uniting of two persons of the same sex in a civil union, domestic partnership, or other similar same-sex relationship shall not be valid or recognized in Nebraska.”

After the initial filing of the proposed measure, Chris and Tom agreed, the collection of so many signatures seemed daunting.

“If someone lit a fire under this kid, he would get this on the ballot, I am certain,” Tom said. “He is a pro-active gay youth who has political aspirations.”

Sitting down with touchemag.com in the Nebraska State Library at the State Capitol building seemed fitting. Before the interview began, Chris quietly walked to the second floor, placed his backpack upon the ground and walked up to one book sitting amongst thousands of others. Taking the book off the shelf, he brought it to the table, opened it, and slid it across the table: LB 472, sponsored by then-Sen. Ernie Chambers in January of 2007.

“I want to be able to say that I made a difference in others’ lives,” Chris said. “To give others equal rights and say I was officially part of it. The outlook may be dim, but I’m not going to give up.”

Looking to Martin Luther King, Jr., Harvey Milk, President Barrack Obama, among other past presidents for personal inspiration of change and equality, Chris’s political aspirations are more than the average teenager’s. First order of business—he wants to begin his career in politics in the Lincoln City Council—Mayor all the way up to President if he could choose his ultimate destiny. He smirks and bashfully jokes that King of a country wouldn’t be half-bad either.

“Politicians who don’t listen to their constituents, is what angers me most,” Chris said. “My biggest motivator for change is to change those politicians.”

After dropping out of Lincoln Northeast High School in 2010 due to his excessive absences with health concerns—scoliosis, fractured vertebrae, detaching tail bone and asthma—Chris received his GED in September. He points to the Governor of Utah, running for President, to show that you don’t have to have a high school diploma to do big things or influence others.

“Everyone should follow their dreams,” Chris said. “No matter how hard it seems, don’t ever give up. You will always find satisfaction in trying.”

Chris wrote his first letter to Governor Dave Heineman in September of 2009, at age 16, in hopes that he would support LGBT issues. Within two weeks, the Governor responded to Chris, disheartening his causes to advance Nebraska’s equality under the law.

“Once this petition takes off—win or lose—will start a chain reaction,” Chris said. “It will continue to push for social reform in our conservative state.”

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