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, â€œMassachusetts is our Iwo Jima.â€ Well, the Rev. Sheldon and his ilk lost that battle and now Iwo Jima has come to him in Californiaâ€”the land of sequels. Sheldonâ€™s Yes on Proposition 8 folks are up against a powerful No on Proposition 8 band of Love Warriorsâ€”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. Thatâ€™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
â€œAll we have ever wanted for our daughter is that she be treated with the same respect and dignity as her brothersâ€”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 doesnâ€™t treat them differently, either.â€
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.Â 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 â€œEliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry.â€ 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 conservativesâ€”all those supposedly pro-family groups.
Iâ€™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.