Who exactly IS Caroline Colarusso anyway?

“Caroline Colarusso is a homophobic bigot that wants to reverse marriage equality!”

That is a statement I said repeatedly in 2014 during the final week of the State Rep race. I also held a sign in front of Town Hall with my then-four-year-old daughter that said “Day is for ALL Families” on election day. I was proud to stand there and also horrified that I even had to make such a sign in 2014, considering gay marriage was an issue we settled in Massachusetts in 2003, thus leading the nation by being the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. I’d long since thrown out my “Hate is Not a Family Value” and “Love is Equal” t-shirts.

Mike Day won the election and I was thrilled to have supported him with my daughter at my side.

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A short time later we had a Board of Selectmen race for two open seats, and Caroline Colarusso was a candidate. I couldn’t stand her perceived values. I didn’t care that she was going to do wonders for our seniors and schools or lower our fees. She was a jerk that would have signed something to reverse my right to marry a woman, and thus potentially stripping protections that were critical to my family.

During the election she came to my house not one, not two, but THREE times looking to speak with me. All three times I was home and all three times I peeked out through my blinds, watching her scribble a note to me, tuck it behind my mailbox and then drive away.

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“You can count on Caroline!” one side of the card said.

‘I’ll bet,’ I thought. ‘Bet I can count on you not to come around after the election, you miserable homophobe.’

April 7th came and went, and Caroline won. I begrudgingly applauded the win because, much like I view other leaders I am not thrilled about in this country, I truly believe we have to get behind the people that serve us to encourage them to do what we feel is right. If they don’t, then call them out and keep that in mind as we go to the polls next time.

In the weeks following the election, Caroline shocked me. She DID come around after she won. And she and I had several, um, “spirited discussions” in my kitchen about marriage equality.

“I wasn’t behind that flier,” Caroline explained, referring to a handout I’d received a copy of.

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“I receive surveys constantly and in this case, which is where that organization created the handout. I am not against gay marriage. What I said was that I felt issues like that should be decided by the voters.”

“Decided by the voters!” I said back. Then I pointed to the living room where my daughter was playing. “That child in there is not a gas tax! My neighbors don’t get to decide on human rights! That’s not how life works in this country.”

We probably spent more than 15 hours on this subject over the course of several months. What struck me was how Caroline LISTENED.  She listened to me and in return shared her thoughts. We also had similar interactions for many other subjects. (In the end, Caroline told me it would be silly for her to be against gay marriage because it’s not something that is going to change here anyway, so it wasn’t on her list of issues to begin with. Her whole issue at the time was with the courts.)

Something else also happened over the course of the past two years: Caroline became my friend. And not just my friend, but also my daughter’s. In fact, my daughter adores Caroline and she’s the reason there’s a Caroline Colarusso sign on my front lawn presently: She had learned how to read Caroline’s name over the summer and after seeing so many lawn signs in Winchester and Stoneham, she asked for one of her own. The sign had little to do with me, but instead it had to do with my daughter wanting to express love for her friend. 

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Caroline and my daughter bonded especially last year because while I was laid up for three months following foot surgery, Caroline went out of her way to take Vanessa to several town functions so she wouldn’t miss out on them. This meant a lot to Vanessa, and when there weren’t town events, Caroline made a point to check in on us to see if we needed help with anything.

 

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Cindy Hemenway, Vanessa, and Caroline Colarusso at Whip Hill

 

I had decided I wasn’t going to be active in this election season because I am a fan of both Mike Day and Caroline Colarusso. They aren’t just politicians, they are also my neighbors here in Stoneham and I consider them my friends. However, when I read today’s article in the Rainbow Times I was extremely disheartened. I am not active on Caroline’s campaign, but I do activate when it comes to speaking out about things that hit close to home, so I want to say the following:

Caroline Colarusso is not anti-equality. She is very much pro-family. I would not allow my child to spend time with someone that was against our human rights.  

I also asked her about the “bathroom bill” months ago.  Caroline’s stance has been to repeatedly ignore attacks on her for what she feels are settled issues, but as her friend I’m going to disagree with that tactic. I cannot speak for her, so instead I will talk about the conversation she and I had.  And what did it boil down to?

She shook her head at me and couldn’t even believe it was something people were focusing on. She was in support of Charlie Baker signing the bill  

“We have so many other things we need to be worrying about around here,” she had said.

My daughter and I recently attended one of Caroline’s events. Not as political supporters (And Lord knows, not as Republicans. I am registered as Independent.), but rather as her friends. Vanessa looks up to Caroline.

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And I also am in full support of Vanessa expressing her thoughts and feelings.

Partway through the event, one of Caroline’s guest speakers stood up and made some anti-Hillary Clinton comments. Vanessa looked alarmed and loudly whispered to me, “What is he saying?? Is Caroline voting for Hillary Clinton?”

I whispered back that he could say whatever he wants, just like she can, and that she’d have to ask Caroline that question. (Vanessa had heard a news outlet talking about Hillary being a grandmother, among other family-centered roles, so that had shaped her Hillary fandom)

So you see, all of that right there, to me, is what is so great about where we are. Caroline doesn’t care that I’m gay and she doesn’t care that I’m not a Republican. She cares about Vanessa and me as human beings that live in Stoneham. She invites dialogue with everyone. And I can tell you that while she and I are not going to always see eye to eye on everything, she is always willing to discuss things with an open mind.

I want to be clear on my intentions here: I wrote this not as a voter, but as someone who disagreed with the sentiment put forth by the Rainbow Times article. This is not written to try and attract votes or as a campaigner. (Like I said, I had wanted to stay quiet during this election because I consider both Caroline and Mike my friends, and that is more important to me than politics) This is written by me as someone who takes great issue with Caroline being labeled as anti-LGBT in a news article.  Caroline cares about people, regardless of whether they are gay, straight, transgendered, or otherwise.

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