EV’s OUTstanding Virginians: Molly McClintock
Molly McClintock – Maximalist
In 2005, when Molly and Irene Peterson, her partner of 26 years, went to Canada to get married, they were planning a political action that was also personal. Canada then was the only place in North America where gay and lesbian couples not living in Massachusetts could legally get married. The idea was to return to Christiansburg, their quiet town in the Blue Ridge Mountains, an even more visibly committed couple.
Molly and Irene’s marriage was a direct expression of their belief, articulated by Molly, that “the best way to change political reality is through changing everyday life.” Marriage is an institution that everyone “gets,” she explains, so being out as not just lesbians but married lesbians would make their relationship easier to understand.
Getting married did smooth the way towards full acceptance of their commitment, Molly says. Soon afterwards, she started getting sister-in-law cards from Irene’s siblings, and her parents referred to Irene as their daughter-in-law. There was a surprise, however, that the couple had not planned for. “We didn’t realize what a difference being married would make to ourselves,” she says. “It really did affect how we viewed our relationship.” To Molly, this unexpected benefit of marriage just strengthens her view that marriage ought to be available for all who want it.
Christiansburg has been a great home base for Molly’s efforts to change the world. With its proximity to Roanoke and Virginia Tech, it is open to new ideas, and it is tight-knit enough that grassroots efforts can easily take hold as residents respond to one another’s needs. Over the years, Molly has organized community forums on social justice issues, held fundraisers, and arranged meetings with local elected officials. She regularly writes commentaries and letters to the Roanoke Times. She is on the board of a large charitable organization, the Montgomery County Christmas Store, and served on the county Democratic Committee for five years. She and Irene have provided emergency foster care to nearly 40 children. Molly’s philosophy of volunteer service is simple: “If you don’t think one person can make a difference, you’re wrong—that’s all that’s ever made a difference.”
Creating a strong sense of community for GLBT people living in Southwest Virginia is also important to Molly. She has served on the Executive Committee of Roanoke Pride for a decade, serving as its chair for several years. She has seen the annual Pride festival grow from a small gathering in an out-of-the-way park to a large event in downtown Roanoke. While Pride events are largely about building cooperation and gaining visibility for the community, “I try to work equality issues into our festival every year, inviting speakers like John Edwards, Adam Ebbin, and Candace Gingrich,” she says.
For Molly, change is all about psychology. That is the basis of her work as a safety consultant in Blacksburg: people in high-risk industries need to think of safety as a choice and take responsibility for their decisions. Similarly, people of good will (the vast majority, she believes) need to reject the fear and fatalism that some politicians try to instill to block progressive change. “Too often, we let the loud minority rule our decision making,” she says.
Sincerity counts for Molly, who has no patience for political triangulation. She finds herself troubled by President Obama’s strong words but slow action on issues like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act. “You say you’re with us and have all the right friends, but the sum total of your actions don’t reflect what you say,” she says, explaining why since President Clinton many GLBT people have felt duped by Democratic politicians.
Molly considers Equality Virginia a powerful force for demanding faster change and a wider range of choices. She served on the board for six years, including a term as board president. She regularly speaks to Virginia Tech and Hollins University classes about legislation impacting the GLBT community and works to engage them in political action. She meets with the Roanoke Times’ editorial board regularly meets to discuss EV’s legislative efforts. Above all, Molly feels her mission in the community is to “inspire hope, to get gay men and lesbians to be optimistic that we can change the times we live in.”
Molly expects that homophobia and discrimination will steadily decline in political life and everyday interactions. But to speed the process along, she intends to keep doing two things: challenge people to push hard for change and live her life as a proud, capable—and, yes, married—GLBT individual.
Equality Virginia is the leading statewide, non-partisan advocacy, outreach and education organization seeking equality for LGBT Virginians. EV believes in a truly inclusive Commonwealth where all are equally welcomed and valued, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Virginia has chosen the hard and long – but rewarding and equitable – path of inclusion for all.”March 14, 2017
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