Listening to Ted Olson and David Boies on Bill Moyers’Journalgave me great hope that our cause for marriage equality was in good hands. Like many in the LGBT community, I had to evolve to this position. Olson’s role in the Bush administration gave me great pause in jumping to trust him. The presence of Boies made me believe that I ought to be open-minded.
If they are successful in challenging Proposition 8 with the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case, Olson and Boies may win marriage equality for LGBT people in 45 states. This would be a major sweep for civil rights. It would also make those of us in the five states and one jurisdiction that have marriage equality feel more secure. There are, however, possibilities that the outcome of the case may have downsides for the LGBT community.
Matt Coles, head of the ACLU’s LGBT Project, has given us some scenarios on Huffington Post of what the decision of the Federal District Court may be. Well worth reading.
Karen Ocamb wrote an insightful and very instructional piece, “Federal Challenge to Prop 8 Hearing Today,” in LGBT.POV. Ocamb is focused on the Ted Olson and David Boies federal suit on behalf of Americans for Equal Rights. They have set out to prove the unconstitutionality of Prop 8. Ocamb gives important context for today’s case. All of us who are struggling to achieve marriage equality should read her article and consider the strategies that our opponents are mounting against us.
I’m back in Hawaii and looking forward to joining with the LGBT community and our many allies in trying to bring some semblance of equality to this island state where the contemporary marriage equality movement all began with a favorable court decision in 1993. Sure, the brave decision of the Hawai’i high court brought about the backlash of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, but it also woke up many of us to come to believe that we deserved the right to marry. No matter how many states put in place their own versions of DOMA, the very possibility of a hope for equality ignited the imaginations of millions of people committed to justice.
Since 1993, the creativity of civil rights activists across the country has brought us to courts, legislatures, and public forums of all sorts. It’s pumped up our grassroots organizations like the Courage Campaign and Join the Impact and some of the tried and true warriors on our side like the American Civil Liberties Union.
But that, sixteen year-old court victory in Hawai’i has done the same for the anti-equality movement, those who want to assure that they are more equal and more righteous. Their forums have largely been hidden behind church doors and fueled by church coffers. The religious engines that are stoking the denial of our civil rights are Catholic and Mormon. They have created the National Organization for Marriage, a slick hate group that has served as a conduit for Mormon and Catholic money and kept up an internet presence.
The anti-equality side also hit pay dirt when they hired political consultants Frank Schubert and Jeff Flint to run the “Yes on Prop 8” campaign in California (2008) and then the “Yes on 1 Stand for Marriage” campaign in Maine (2009). The campaigns were virtually the same and were fueled by the big lies of made up “consequences,” of marriage equality particularly the sure-fire inner, the teaching of gay marriage to schoolchildren. We will hear this and all of their other nightmarish projections all over the country. The lies work.
As the Hawai’i Family Equality Coalition focuses its attention on the state senate in hopes of passing HB 444 a civil unions bill, we would all do well to study Karen Ocamb’s analysis of the strategies that Olson and Boies are using in federal court as well as those of Schubert and Flint that local copycats like the Hawaii Family Forum and Transformation Hawai’i.
Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis represent one of the most compelling stories in the California civil rights struggle for equality for all people. Gaffney’s parents are of mixed heritage so once upon a time in California, they could not marry. Gaffney and his partner of over 20 years also could not marry because they are a same-sex couple. They decided to fight for civil marriage for same-sex couples in California and eventually became one of the plaintiff couples.
When the historic CA Supreme Court decision came down on May 15, 2008, Gaffney and Lewis made their wedding plans for June 2008. They are one of the lucky California gay couples that is married. Their story is historic. Check them out:
On March 5th the California Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of Proposition 8. Opponents of marriage equality will have the infamous Ken Starr representing them and arguing in essence that the 18,000 same-sex couples married in California must divorce. The Courage Campaign brings us a touching video on what Starr’s assault on marriage will mean.
Hey Finally somebody in California got the idea that putting real gay people in the public relations materials might be a good idea. Dianne Feinstein, the Governator, and the rest of the abstract blatherers about our civil rights didn’t work. Now some folks with courage and common sense are presenting the gay and lesbian families whose civil rights have been voted on by the majority. And whose civil rights have been taken away by a slim plurality.
Patricia A. Gozemba
For those who doubt the efficacy of nation-wide rallies like last Saturdayâ€™s about Prop 8, I have two words: Wanda Sykes. It was worth dragging thousands of us out from Honolulu to Portland, Maine to have Wanda Sykes show up at a Las Vegas rally and come out to the world.
Â Married for just 10 days before the Prop 8 vote torpedoed marriage equality in California, Sykes and her wife are in marriage limbo along with 17, 999 other couples. Hopefully Sykesâ€™s public reflection on being in the closet will resonate with those in the LGBT community, still not ready to come out.
When Sykes told the crowd, â€œYou know, I donâ€™t really talk about my sexual orientation. I didnâ€™t feel like I had to. I was just living my life, not necessarily in the closet, but I was living my life. Everybody that knows me personally, they know Iâ€™m gay. But thatâ€™s the way people should be able to live their lives. Now, I gotta get in their face.â€
Yeah, Wanda, we all have to come out. We can assume that people who voted for Prop 8 didnâ€™t know that you were gay. Maybe that would have shifted opinions. I can imagine a great 30 second ad with you and your wife. California could have used some gay people in their ads for sure. The elegant logic in â€œWanda Sykes on Gay Marriage,â€ is a winner. â€œIf you donâ€™t believe in same-sex marriage, then donâ€™t marry someone of the same-sex.â€
Okay, Wanda, now that youâ€™re out, I want more. You were right â€œour community was attackedâ€ by the vote on Prop 8.Â Your logic, â€œWe shouldnâ€™t have to be out here demanding something that we should automatically have as citizens of this country.â€ Wanda, tell the world. Feel free to get in the face of those who donâ€™t believe that you are as good as they are. It will make a difference. Everyone’s coming out does.
Last week, America voted for hope, not fear. For peace, not war. For love, not hatred. The election of Barack Obama represents what is best in the American spirit—fairness, equality, respect for hardworking people, a belief in a better tomorrow. It has been a long time coming. As Obama has said again and again over the last 21 months, America is a nation defined by its continued desire to form “a more perfect union.”
Unfortunately, for the LGBT community, voters who went to the polls in record numbers on Tuesday, voted their fears on the issues that matter to us mostâ€”respect for our families. We lost votes on marriage equality in three states: California, Florida and Arizona. And in Arkansas, voters banned unmarried couples from serving as foster or adoptive parents. This measure, clearly aimed at gay families, is perhaps the most damaging of this year’s initiatives in that it so blatantly carries the message that gay people are harmful to children.
A look at the election maps for California shows how the LGBT community blew it on Proposition 8.
First of all, we ran TV ads that did not include LGBT people and our families. Jonathan Rauch called us â€œinvisible.â€ No loving families smiling at each other on their wedding day, at the breakfast table getting their day started, or at their kidâ€™s soccer game. Instead we had straight people from parents to politicians talking about us. Isnâ€™t that what went on before we all came out and spoke for ourselves?
Secondly we forgot to use simple addition in calculating how many African-Americans and Latinos would come out to vote for Barack Obama in his historic candidacy. With all of these folks at the polls, we really needed to prepare them with our view of how important marriage is. Instead of doing this, we allowed bigoted fundamentalist preachers in the Catholic, evangelical, and Mormon churches to psyche these folks up to vote â€œYes on Prop 8.â€
How did Prop 8 succeed in Los Angeles and San Diego counties? Dismal. These counties are predominantly people of color. They came out to break a hold on another privilege denied all of us, having an African-American PresidentÂ by voting overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. People who ought to â€œget itâ€ about being denied civil rights voted to take away ours. They and people of color throughout the state did not vote to uphold our civil right to marriage. They never made the connection between our civil right and their civil right to marriage. We lost big-time in communities of color.
Did anyone on our â€œNo on Prop 8â€side, during the campaign, effectively remind people of color that until the California Supreme Court ruled in 1948 in Perez v Sharp that their marriage rights were limited?Â They could not marry a white person. The same court that granted people of color that civil right of marriage granted us our right to marriage. Did any of the “No on 8” folks believe that deep organizing in communities of color was crucial? Did we believe that homogenized “No on 8″ ads would appeal to voters of all communities?
There is no question that the time of the campaign was short. But the lack of work that we have done in an ongoing way in communities of color came back to haunt us. We learned again the mistake of taking communities of color for granted.
Hereâ€™s what my friend and heterosexual ally Karen Rudolph, who coincidentally is married to a man of color, had to say about this:
â€œI think that we didnâ€™t get LA and San Diego because of the larger African American and Latino populations.Â The next time around we have to focus on them.Â We need African American performers speaking in ads on Black radio stations.Â We need television ads with Black grandmothers saying how they want their grandchildrenâ€™s father to have the right to marry his partner.Â We need ads on TeleMundo in Spanish and Spanish language robo calls.Â This intellectual stuff in the English language didnâ€™t reach those communities.”
Rudolph went on to say, “I think that we need to let people know that gay marriage doesnâ€™t turn kids gay, that no one is recruiting, that no teacher is forcing children to approve of gay relationships.Â We need to let them know that no church will be forced to approve of the morality of gay marriage and no one will be forced to have gay weddings in their churches.Â If we donâ€™t confront those slanders head on, we allow ourselves to be swift-boated.â€
In 48 hours, a California minority group may lose an important civil right at the ballot box. Almost sounds Machiavellian. Certainly it sounds un-American. In an election that by all indications looks as if it will be historic in elevating the first African American to the presidency, mean-spirited and biased California voters can still show that all prejudice is not dead by voting Yes on Proposition 8 to eliminate gay marriage. Or a majority of California voters, led by their better angels, can uphold the California Supreme Court decision approving gay marriage and sweep aside homophobia along with racism.
As the November 4th election looms, same-sex couples in California are rushing to town and city halls to get marriage licenses and marry. California courts have determined that couples married before (or if) their civil rights are voted away will still be legally married. Another class of Californians will be created, gays who once had the civil right to marry as opposed to those who werenâ€™t born at the right time, or in love at the right time, or . . ..
Approximately 16,000 couples have married in four and a half months.
What a mind-boggling situation these couples are thrust into because they are part of an apparently despised minority. Some folks like Focus on the Family, the Catholic Knights of Columbus, the Mormon Church, and clusters of other right-wing ideological groups have raised millions of dollars to convince Californians that some people do not deserve full civil rights. They are urging a Yes vote on Proposition 8.
In perhaps their most despicable moment, these Yes on Proposition 8 folks just sent a targeted mailing to African American voters indicating that Barack Obama and Joe Biden are also for Yes on Proposition 8. In response to the duplicitous direct-mail piece, Obama campaign spokesman Ben Bolt released this statement: “Senator Obama has already announced that the Obama-Biden ticket opposes Proposition 8 and similar discriminatory constitutional amendments that could roll back the civil rights he and Senator Biden strongly believe should be afforded to all Americans.”
What Obama and Biden have never said is that they are for marriage equality. Of course, thatâ€™s the stickler. Theyâ€™ve said that they are for civil unions. Californians had that separate but equal solution and their high court said that it was not enoughâ€”just as Connecticutâ€™s high court said a few weeks ago. Thereâ€™s a lesson here about being for full equalityâ€”unequivocally. Nonetheless in this last minute showdown the Obama campaign has said it â€œopposes Proposition 8.â€
Meanwhile gay and lesbian couples in California are rushing to marry while they still have that civil right. Letâ€™s hope this last ditch ad by NO on Prop 8 helps. It says all the right things but I just wish that some of the political heroes had the guts to really be for marriage equality.
The right wing blogs have picked up a story by Mass Resistance activist Brian Camenker, in which he slams us for providing Courting Equality as a gift to all Massachusetts public high school libraries. He claims that this was a tax-funded effort. This is an outright lie. This effort was funded through a generous private donation to PFLAG!
But if Courting Equality can be used against same-sex marriage, it certainly should be used to support it. Let your friends, family, colleagues know about the Courting Equality video (www.youtube.com/courtingequality).Â IfÂ you know anyoneÂ in California, urge them to Vote No on Proposition 8 and to share the video with as many people as they can. Also, ballot referendums are taking place in Florida, Arizona, and Connecticut. Let’s get out the vote in favor of marriage equality, and keep the momentum going. Love Wins!
Thanks to our good friends at Two Rivers Circle Productions and Aboriginal Lens, the story of LGBT people winning marriage equality is now available in a 5-minute documentary video. Using the photos from our book, the filmmakers created a video that will warm your heart—and hopefully move the hearts and minds of voters on November 4. California film producer Karen Rudolph has already been giving the video to local activists fighting Proposition 8, the California ballot question that would eliminate the right of same-sex couoples to marry in that state.Â Please send the video link to your friends, family, and contacts in California, Arizona, and Florida, and encourage them to share it with those who don’t yet understand the importance of this civil rights issue. The photographs of families sharing their love–and fighting for their rights can’t help but move people along. As Ellen DeGeneres explained recently to John McCain, we just want to celebrate our love the same way that everyone else does!