Published Letter to the Editor:
It seems to me that our world is becoming more divided by the labels or negative names we are putting on the men, women, and children who are different from us.  This lack of respect is being done at a time when our Marshalltown community must come together to support one another as human beings, not as labels or negative names to bully one another.

I had a huge wake- up call this past week, sitting with a group of women to listen to a story of pain, struggle and endurance, by two women who went through so much because of their love for one another as partners for the last 35 years.  Meeting and getting to know them made their story real told by real people who were interesting and intelligent women, and not their gay labels.  I was able to honor their strength and their honesty.

I feel I am a member of a really great Marshalltown Community.  I grew up here and came back here because it is home to me.  But I see many men, women, and children who are truly hurting because of  the divisiveness of discrimination;  and this comes in many forms whether skin color, race, religion or sexual orientation.

When I grew up here, it was basically a White community with a few African American families and a few Jewish families.  When I returned, I was delighted to see a multi-cultural society with the blending together of many kinds of skin color, race, races, religions and sexual orientation.  The reality of hurtful words and negative tones has truly saddened me.

As a former educator, my heart has been rent with the news stories of young teens who cannot survive bullying because they are gay or lesbians, and they feel their only choice is to die. As a mother, I am deeply saddened by families who choose to throw out and throw away their gay child because they don’t want them anymore. They are missing the joy that child could bring and the love they could share by allowing them to be true to who they are.

We are all equal human beings, whether we are straight, gay, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Black, White, Brown, Native American, Hispanic or any other label we seem to need to wear or  name others in our society.

When are we going to start putting a face on each of these labels and see the person and listen to their story?

I believe it was Jesus who commanded us to love one another. There was no hating or labels, exceptions or exclusiveness in that commandment. It included loving ALL human beings.

The Marshalltown that I have always known has always had a wonderful spirit about it and an on-going positive energy to set goals for the betterment of the town we live in.  Let us continue to set goals that are welcoming and respectful of all human beings that choose to abide in this fabulous place that I call my home.

Jeannine Heng, longtime Marshalltown resident