Parents Fight Another Iwo Jima for Marriage Equality

by Pat Gozemba

Shortly after the Goodridge decision affirmed marriage equality in Massachusetts on November 18, 2003, Rev. Lou Sheldon of California mustered his troops declaring, “Massachusetts is our Iwo Jima.” Well, the Rev. Sheldon and his ilk lost that battle and now Iwo Jima has come to him in California—the land of sequels. Sheldon’s Yes on Proposition 8 folks are up against a powerful No on Proposition 8 band of Love Warriors—parents.

In Massachusetts our ground troops of families, religious leaders, and committed citizens willing to go out and speak with their neighbors, co-workers, fellow-worshippers, and anyone with a willing ear and an open mind won the day. Families of origin, the families we have created, and our families of choice played a huge role in protecting marriage equality and the constitution of our state. That’s the message that Karen Kahn and I brought to a MarriageEqualityUSA training session a few days ago in San Francisco.

One workshop attendee, Sam Thoron, wields a powerful weapon, love, for the No on Prop 8 campaign. Both Sam and his wife Julia are actively involved in PFLAG and are extremely proud of their lesbian daughter. Their commitment to equality for all of their children is unconditional.


Sam and Julia Thoron

“All we have ever wanted for our daughter is that she be treated with the same respect and dignity as her brothers—with the same freedoms and responsibilities as every other Californian. My wife and I never treated our children differently, we never loved them any differently and now the law doesn’t treat them differently, either.”

The mothers and fathers of LGBT children speak with a very compelling voice about their hopes for their children. With his wife at his side, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, a Republican, sent seismic waves throughout California and the nation in September 2007, when, in an about-face, he delivered a very moving endorsement of marriage equality.  Why did he do it? He believed that his lesbian daughter should have the same rights as everyone else.

Right-wing conservatives immediately pledged to unseat Sanders. But in June 2008 as weddings of same-sex couples began in California, Sanders was returned to office. Another Iwo Jima won by fair minded citizens.

What the conservatives did manage to do was get Prop 8 on the ballot which amends the state constitution and “Eliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry.” Thanks to Attorney General Jerry Brown for this forthright wording of Prop 8. The Lou Sheldons of the world wanted the language wrapped in the Bible, the flag, apple pie, and motherhood. In other words, obscure but sounding good. Few will be confused by what they are voting on with Prop 8.

For millions of LGBT Americans this vote in California is an Iwo Jima. Money is pouring into the state from Catholics, Mormons, and every other stripe of religious conservatives—all those supposedly pro-family groups.

I’m hoping that Californians will listen to the eloquent and passionate voices of the Thoron and Sanders families, the real Love Warriors, and vote No on Prop 8.

3 responses to “Parents Fight Another Iwo Jima for Marriage Equality

  1. This video of the Sanders family taking a stand for their daughter is so moving. It took a lot of courage and humility for them to change their minds. I think that many parents with gay children have had to confront the conflict between long held anti-gay prejudice and the love they feel for their children. Thank goodness that so often, LOVE WINS.

  2. I met the Thorons when I was working with PFLAG (tho I know Julia wouldn’t remember me). They are lovely people and their video is very powerful.

  3. Those who compare gender and race discrimination with sexual orientation are using tactical deception to emotionally sway an unsuspecting public. Wrongful discrimination (in actual civil rights cases) injures people for what they are by nature not for their sexual preferences. We have laws to protect human rights for all people. If homosexuals want same-sex-lifestyles, they shouldn’t demand special laws to protect their sexual preferences. If we start protecting sexual preferences from discrimination, where will it end? On what basis will we decide that some sexual preferences should be endorsed and defended by the state and others rejected?

    The flawed logic serving the battle for gay rights works off of the assumption that one is born gay and cannot change. Ask those who once practiced the homosexual lifestyle but are now free from it what they think of this argument? Although some people could be biologically inclined toward homosexual behavior and others had it forced on them against their wills, ultimately it becomes a behavior people choose. Any other view disrespects human dignity. Two men could live together and deeply care for each other without being homosexual. Homosexuality only becomes part of the equation when they commit sexual acts with each other. As a result, “homosexual” refers not to one’s nature, disposition or desire but to one’s behavior.

    After many years of counseling others, I am convinced that those who practice homosexuality do not genuinely accept that they were meant to live the gay lifestyle. Even radical homosexual activists, if honest, would admit that their fight for gay rights is not the answer for their inner frustrations, resentments and despair. Deep inside, they know that changes in legislation or public opinion will not remove the agony they feel. The homosexual lifestyle robs people of both dignity and freedom. Court decisions and marriage licenses will not give these people the dignity or freedom they desire.

    Steven W. Cornell
    Senior Pastor
    Millersville Bible Church
    58 West Frederick St.
    Millersville, PA. 17551

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