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    Meeting ‘Everyday Jacquelyn,’ the Inspiring Security Guard Who Nominated Biden

    By Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis–

    Jacquelyn Brittany got up the morning of December 16, 2019, and went to her job as a security guard at The New York Times just like any other day. She had no idea that her life was about to change forever.

    Joe Biden had a meeting with The New York Times editorial board that day to try to gain their endorsement for the Democratic nomination for president. Biden and his staff happened to get Jacquelyn as their security escort on the elevator going up to his meeting. In typical Joe Biden fashion, he greeted her, saying, “Hi, how are you today?” with a great big smile. Jacquelyn took it from there.

    As captured in a New York Times video that went viral, Jacquelyn responded spontaneously: “I’m great. I love you.” And as he thanked her, she continued: “I do. You’re like my favorite.” The two decided to take a selfie together. The last thing we see in the viral video is Jacquelyn telling Biden, “You are awesome.”

    Last week, we learned first-hand that Jacquelyn herself is awesome. In the months following Jacquelyn’s chance encounter with Biden, she has emerged as a powerfully articulate, fearless, and magnetic advocate, who was given the honor of nominating Biden for the presidency at the Democratic National Convention in August. Since nominating Biden, Jacquelyn in collaboration with the founders of the Everyday American Joe website ( http://everydayamericanjoe.com/ ) recently embarked on a national education and advocacy tour for “everyday Joes, Janes, and Jacquelyns.” Their vision is to “give a voice” to the many “working class Americans across the country, (who) are rarely given a platform or voice in politics at a national level.”

    We had the pleasure of spending a truly delightful afternoon with Jacquelyn along with her fellow activist Chris Gilroy when they visited San Francisco recently. We loved Jacquelyn as soon as we saw her on national television, but we fell in love with her when we met her. We realized we are kindred spirits.

    Sixteen years before Jacquelyn’s life-changing encounter with Biden, we too had gotten up one morning—February 12, 2004—unaware that our life was about to change forever. February 12, 2004, was the day San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom opened the doors of City Hall for LGBTIQ couples to marry. We showed up for an already planned Marriage Equality USA rally at City Hall that day, and because of that we got to be one of the first 10 couples to marry and have been working actively for marriage equality and LGBTIQ rights ever since.

    For us, the marriage equality and LGBTIQ rights movements are about our human dignity and our common humanity. Jacquelyn and Biden’s interaction in the elevator last year embodied those same values for all to see.

    As Jacquelyn explained to the nation in her nominating speech: “I take powerful people up on my elevator all the time. When they get off, they go to their important meetings. Me, I just head back to the lobby. But in the short time I spent with Joe Biden, I could tell he really saw me. That he actually cared; that my life meant something to him.” 

    Most importantly though, it was not just Biden’s graciousness, but Jacquelyn’s respect for herself that gave her the confidence to engage with Biden as an equal in the elevator and spontaneously share her perspective directly with him. Her openhearted confidence catapulted her to becoming a national voice on behalf of countless other people who saw themselves in her.

    And like those of us in the marriage equality movement, Jacquelyn seized the moment with love. When we met Jacquelyn last week, her unique combination of intelligence, inquisitiveness, and personal warmth really struck us. As an African American lesbian, Jacquelyn strongly identifies with both the Black Lives Matter and LGBTIQ movements. As we showed her around the Castro on her first visit to San Francisco and shared stories and discussed LGBTIQ history, we saw for ourselves how naturally she related to everyone she met and embodied the vision we shared of inclusion and non-division. It was abundantly clear to us that just as Jacquelyn told the nation that “Joe Biden has room in his heart for more than just himself,” so too does Jacquelyn.

    If we hadn’t made the effort to show up for a marriage equality rally 16 years ago, and if Jacquelyn hadn’t taken the risk to speak her heart and mind to Biden last year, we likely never would have met and become friends. And now we are fellow activists on the path to achieve equality and dignity for all.

    Election day is just weeks away. We invite you to join Jacquelyn and many others on her journey on Twitter @_Jacquelyn2020 and at https://wegotavoice2.com/coast-2-coast

    Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis, together for over three decades, were plaintiffs in the California case for equal marriage rights decided by the California Supreme Court in 2008. Their leadership in the grassroots organization Marriage Equality USA contributed in 2015 to making same-sex marriage legal nationwide.

    Published on October 8, 2020