Category Archives: california

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.

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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.

Crossing Borders, Expanding Equality, and Seeking Justice

 by Patricia A. Gozemba

Equality is a core value in Massachusetts. More than two weeks have passed since our Massachusetts borders fell to the further expansion of equality. When Governor Deval Patrick signed the repeal of the 1913 law that prohibited out-of-state same-sex couples from coming to our state to marry, our state borders became more permeable and we are glad of it. At the July 31, 2008, signing ceremony, Patrick said, “the repeal will confirm a simple truth: that is, in Massachusetts, equal means equal.” More

The Marriage of Michael and Peter

 Patricia A. Gozemba

Peter Hayashida and Michael Olman are two amazingly creative and accomplished guys whom Karen and I had the pleasure of meeting in Hawaii about five years ago–at a traditional Korean Christmas dinner orchestrated in large part by our mutual friend Rochelle. We bonded with these LA guys around our mutual desires to live in Hawaii. Peter grew up in Hawaii and Michael fell in love with Hawaii the first time that he went to the islands.

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Yep, that’s Michael, an Emmy Award winning sound artist, in his omnipresent aloha shirt and Peter the development officer in a tie. This shot was actually done for a wonderful radio interview that they did for Pacifica Radio. Listen to what they had to say about marriage and their happiness to be fully recognized by the state of California.

On Friday, June 21, 2008, they married. Here’s what Peter had to say about their marriage that cuts right to the point of equality, love, and support:

“Michael and I got married on June 20, 2008 in a civil ceremony in the City of West Hollywood. Although we recently celebrated our 14th anniversary, earning the right to marry was a significant milestone for us and other same-sex couples in California.

We wanted to share pictures with you thank you for supporting us as a family during the many years before the State of California saw fit to do so.

With much love,
Michael & Peter”

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We wish the very best to them and all the couples who through marriage have made it to this next milestone on our road to full civil rights and equality.

Now, may California take care to protect this court given right at the ballot box next November. Having couples like Michael and Peter speak out on the radio and show their pride in moving further into the full circle of equality will make a huge difference in public acceptance. We know. It happened in Massachusetts. Our rights can be protected by our coming out.

Thanks and congratulations.

Gay Marriage in California!

Day One
Guest Blogger: Lisa Berg

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Beverly Hills District Office of the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder/County Clerk

It was amazing. It was exciting. It was history! I went to the Beverly Hills District Office of the L.A. County Registrar Recorders office to be a part of the very first day that any homosexual couples could actually apply for and legally receive a marriage license. It was surreal to see how many people felt free to proclaim their love in the sunshine, free of fear. I grew up in a time when a public display of affection by lesbians or gay men was an invitation to violence. There was no such fear today. The mood in the building was positively giddy. There were dozens of couples waiting patiently in line to be a part of this historic day. Here are just a few of the incredible people I met today…

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Scott and Gary were the first two men I ran into this morning. They’ve been together for nine years now and Scott is beside himself with excitement about today’s nuptials. When I ask what the social atmosphere was like for them when they first realized they were gay Scott answers by saying that Gary’s father is a Southern Baptist Minister. They immediately bring it back to present day and tell me that they have 2 young sons at home that are one and three years old and they are so excited to be able to be married for themselves and for the boys.

In line behind Scott and Gary were Charley and Mark. They’ve been partners for fourteen years. They become fast friends with Scott and Gary and another couple waiting to get married. The six of them decide to be official witnesses for each other. After the three marriages take place they exchange email addresses and make plans to get together later in the day.

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Charley and Mark

I then met two youngsters, Errica and Oshea. They have been a couple for one and a half years and are here to make it permanent. They were a reminder to me of what the County Clerk probably sees most on any other day – young lovers making a lifelong commitment. In retrospect, unlike Errica and Oshea, most of those waiting in line have been waiting for this for most of their lives… couples like Becky and Natasha.

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Oshea and Errica

Becky and Natasha have been partners for twelve years now and they seem relieved to finally be able to be considered equal in the eyes of the law. I spoke at length with Becky who said she never thought she would see this day in her lifetime. She also expressed a deep respect for the Supreme Court for the courage of their decision. When I asked what it was like for them when they first realized their orientation, Becky said, “There were no role models back then.” Then, referring to the coverage of the marriage of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon on the news yesterday, Becky commented, “To see a 55 year relationship finally being honored for what it is, was inspiring.” I ask if they will marry today. They say their plans are to marry on August 2nd since that is their anniversary date, but they wanted to be here to get their license today.

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Natasha and Becky

As I talked to others in the room I met David and Jim. They have been registered domestic partners for 7 years, but they have been life partners for thirty seven years! When I asked what this means to them to be able to marry Jim told me, “Nothing. It doesn’t mean anything.” Confused I asked then why were they doing it. He said they have to…for financial reasons. You see, after 37 years together they are looking for some added financial security that comes with the marriage certificate. It (obviously) doesn’t change anything about their emotional relationship or their commitment to each other. What it does change, in Jim’s words, is that they are no longer second class citizens.

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David and Jim

Noticeably absent from the scene today was any opposition displays. No picketers, no banners, no demonstrations, no negative displays of any kind. Maybe we got lucky or maybe they chose a different location. No matter. I don’t think there was anything that could have dampened the spirits of the people here today. I’m so glad I was able to be in the midst of history in the making. As I write this my partner and I have already applied for our license with plans to marry on September 1st to commemorate the 29th anniversary of our first commitment ceremony.

See the June 3 blog entry below, “Marriage–Again–New Photos,” for photos of Lisa and her partner!

60 Million and 63 Percent

Pretty big numbers. Pretty huge victories. We are becoming part of “We the people.” 

As Massachusetts celebrates four years of marriage equality, 60 million Americans now live in three states where gay marriages are recognized. California’s high court and New York’s governor made it possible for millions more Americans to opt for marriage–and have their marriages recognized and respected.

On the heels of these hard-fought for victories, the USA Today/Gallup Poll announced on June 3 that 63 percent of Americans from every area of the country believe that same-sex marriage is “strictly a private decision” between two people. The approval ratings are a tribute to the fair-mindedness and love for equality that are inherently American. Here’s the regional breakdown of the statistics: East (71 percent), West (64 percent), Midwest (63 percent) and South (56 percent). More

Our trailblazing in Massachusetts broke barriers and proved to the country that marriage equality for all is good.

 Prof. Mark Rozell of George Mason University pointed to the fatuousness of the “overheated rhetoric, about the consequences of gay marriage in Massachusetts.” He says that the poll results show that people didn’t see our marriages “affect their own lives.” He adds, “Now, most people have let loose a collective yawn about the issue.” 

While the “collective yawn” might be viewed as a good thing, it is in sharp contrast to the excitement that millions of gay men and lesbians feel at having attained another civil right that allows us to protect ourselves and our families.

The “yawn” is also in sharp contrast to the reaction of the far-right group Save California that is encouraging people to call their county clerks and tell them not to issue same-sex marriage licences. Dan Savage reports that they suggest the following on their website:

Ask your county clerk if they were a Nazi officer during WWII and had been ordered to gas the Jews, would they? At the Nuremberg trials, they would have been convicted of murder for following this immoral order.

So in the wild stretch that is called right-wing spinning, county clerks who swear to uphold the California Constitution are being likened to Nazis.

The Massachusetts Family Institute tried the same ploy. They encouraged clerks to resign rather than uphold their oath of office and issue same-sex marriage licenses. In the end, one or two clerks did resign, but the big story was about the courageous clerks who went one step further and refused to deny licenses to out-of-state couples and took the governor and the attorney general to court over forcing them to act in this unconscionable manner.

They lost only because the racist inspired 1913 law directed at inter-racial couples is still on the books in Massachusetts. The law prohibits couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their home states will not recognize their marriages. But now same-sex couples from New York and California can come to Massachusetts and marry. The 1913 law must be wiped off the books. It’s a disgrace to Massachusetts that has led the way in achieving equality for so many.

With the clear vision of 63 per cent of the people in this country there is no more room for bigotry. Soon 60 million will be yawning at the ordinary, yet somehow extraordinary, nature of marriage equality.

 

Marriage–Again–New Photos

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In a recent Bay Windows article, I wrote about Rosanne Schembri and Lisa Berg, a California couple longing to marry. Here are some photos of them that did not make it into the newspaper but tell an important story about who we are and our desires to have our civil rights.

1979

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 On September 1, 1979, the Rev. Jeri Ann Harvey, of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Community Church married Rosanne Schembri (l) and Lisa Berg (R).

2006

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Rosanne Schembri and Lisa Berg at their wedding in Canada in 2006.

Next, they will marry legally in their home state of California. Stay tuned for the story and the photos!

Marriage – again

Bay Windows contributor
Patricia A. Gozemba

June 2, 2008

California, what great company you are in. Our courts have blazed the path. Massachusetts and California – two down and forty-eight to go. Bi-coastal dignity is not enough. The promise of liberty and equality for all means just that – for all.

We won marriage equality because the Massachusetts court ruled in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that all citizens are guaranteed “equal protection” under the law. Your court went further and ruled that marriage is a “fundamental right.” Mary Bonauto, the victorious attorney in Goodridge, could barely contain her joy with the California decision. In a Boston Globe? article she said, “This is not a little ripple in a pond. This is a wave. This is big. What Massachusetts did was extraordinarily significant. Someone had to be first but having the second state be the largest in the country, with an influential judiciary, makes it quite a powerhouse.” More

Democracy in Action

On Monday, May 20, the Boston Globe published this letter from Courting Equality author Karen Kahn:

CONGRATULATIONS TO California and all its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens who have been recognized as equal citizens by the state’s Supreme Court. The California court affirmed its 1948 Perez decision recognizing that the choice of one’s marriage partner is a fundamental right, regardless of race or, in Thursday’s ruling, gender.

Perhaps Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute and an opponent of same-sex marriage, does not understand the workings of democracy (“Mass. activists on both sides ready to help,” Page A1, May 16). Here in Massachusetts, we spent four years fighting over the definition of marriage. Our highest court ruled that marriage discrimination was unconstitutional. Our Legislature, after hearing from thousands of citizens, voted to affirm freedom and liberty for all Massachusetts citizens. And Governor Deval Patrick worked hard to prevent discrimination from being written into our state constitution.

In California, the Legislature has twice voted in favor of same-sex marriage, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to sign those bills without a decision from the court. Last week, he expressed his support for the ruling. But Mineau and his anti-gay allies call the court ruling undemocratic. Really? What I see in Massachusetts and California is that democracy moves inexorably toward equality for all.

Let’s make sure California’s residents understand that writing discrimination into thier state constitution would be an affront to “liberty and justice for all.”

LA Times tells of Massachusetts marriage success

In May 17 article, following the California Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, Elizabeth Mehren of the LA Times reminds readers that after 4 years, Massachusetts has shown the world that same-sex marriage does not bring with it the collapse of civilization. Mehren talked with Karen Kahn, co-author of Courting Equality, and quoted her at length:

  In a way, “Massachusetts has been like the reality TV show for gay marriage,” said Karen Kahn, co-author of “Courting Equality,” a book examining same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.

“When we were the only state, we were the ones who were ‘out there.’ We were the target for every kind of criticism, all the threats that this would destroy marriage, families and civilization.”

Instead, Kahn said, “what we have had is four years of marriage equality. Nothing terrible has happened in our state. The Red Sox have won the World Series twice since the law changed. There continue to be little pockets of opposition, but almost none of it is not religious-based. Overall, we are doing just fine here in Massachusetts.”

Kahn, 52, married her co-author and longtime companion, Patricia Gozemba, 67, in September 2005.

To read the entire article, which also tells the story of Chloe Page, featured in the pages of Courting Equality, go to In Massachusetts, a Test Run for Same-Sex Marriage. You can join the discussion there, which has already engaged more than 2000 readers. Let them know that same-sex marriage has been good for Massachusetts, and will only bring joy and happiness to California.

A California Marriage–Too?

I’m officially a Massachusetts resident–though in my mind I’m a resident of Hawai’i. Karen Kahn and I were married here on September 1, 2005. We didn’t rush to marriage but the proccess of working on Courting Equality made us realize that we would be foolish to miss the opportunity to exercise the fundamental civil right of marriage and gain the protections we needed.

My dream has always been that in retirement I’d move to Hawai’i–or at least some place with a more hospitable climate year-round. But Hawai’i will not recognize my married status. Now the great climate of much of California is on my radar screen.

California doesn’t have a racist law like Massachusetts’s 1913 statute that prevents couples from most other states from going there and marrying. Early reports say that the state will welcome anyone who wants to come there and marry. Will I need to marry again in California or will the second most-appealing state for retirement recognize our marriage as legal?

If heterosexuals had to think about this, justice might be served in a more timely manner.

Stay tuned for retirement dreams.

California, The Sky Will Not Fall

California, we are so happy to have you join us. It’s hardly a “from sea to shining sea moment” of marriage equality, but now Massachusetts and California have shown the country that equal marriage is fundamental to freedom and liberty. The threats to the marriage equality movement in California will probably continue, just as they have in Massachusetts. But oh, for this moment, our country feels like a “sweet land of liberty.” All these patriotic refrains keep running through my head! More