Most Outspoken

Maryellen Butke, Josephine O’Connell & Matthew Lannon


One of the most profound moments of the fierce debate over marriage equality in Rhode Island was when 12-year-old Matthew Lannon testified before the State Senate, declaring, “If there is one thing you don’t mess with in life, it’s love.” The child of two moms, Maryellen Butke and Josephine O’Connell, themselves both passionate voices on the issue, Matthew was so well-spoken and composed, his words so heartfelt, that a video of his testimony went viral and the story got picked up by national media, including Huffington Post. “The entire process really strengthened us as a family,” Maryellen says. “It forced us to articulate what we believed, who we were, and what really mattered to us.” The fact that Matthew’s loving parents couldn’t marry certainly mattered to him – so much so that when Maryellen informed him that she would be testifying at the State House, he insisted that he should too. “He wrote the speech that night, and practiced it the next day at school,” Maryellen recalls. “One of the most powerful moments was when a Senator shared with him that a colleague who was unsure about marriage equality was moved by Matthew’s testimony.” Now that marriage equality is the law of the land, it doesn’t mean this family is ready to ride off happily into the sunset. In fact, since then Matthew has contributed an essay to Rhode Island NPR’s “This I Believe” series. “We all agree that speaking up against injustice is something we are committed to doing,” Maryellen explains. “Matthew and I have discussed other issues he is passionate about as he thinks about what is next in his life.”

superlatives 2013, most outspoken, providence monthly, Maryellen Butke, Josephine OConnell, Matthew Lannon


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