Dear Pleasanton Neighbors,
After weeks of reading about Prop 8 in the news, I feel compelled to write. I know this is lengthy, but I hope you'll read it to the end. Let me first say that I have been a part of the Pleasanton community for 37 years now. I am a graduate of Foothill High School, a small business owner in town and a healthcare provider. I feel priviledged to serve in a community that I love, and it's because of my strong ties to this community that I feel so disturbed by the misinformation that has infiltrated our homes via television, radio, etc. I believe that a majority of Californians want to treat people fairly and it pains me to see citizens make decisions and judgements based upon false information.
Proposition 8 would revoke the marital rights of thousands of same-sex couples in California. No matter what your religious beliefs about marriage, Prop 8 is a civil rights issue that we should all care about because writing discrimination into the Constitution sets a dangerous precedent. The Constitution of this state has never been used as a tool to take away rights from a particular segment of the population. Traditionally, the Constitution has stood for freedom, liberty and protection under the law.
Although some people may have a strong opinion about gay marriage based on their religious beliefs, California is not a theocracy. Laws that govern all Californians should not be based on the beliefs of any singular religion. Furthermore, there are many faith leaders (including prominent Christians and Jews) who strongly believe that people in their faith traditions should support marriage equality.
Civil rights issues are often controversial. For example, in 1948, when the California Supreme Court ruled that inter-racial couples had the fundamental right to marry, most Californians did not agree with the court's ruling. Had Californians placed an initiative on the ballot in 1948 to limit marriage to same-race couples, it's likely that such a ballot measure would have passed. Were the judges in that historic case over-ruling the will of the people or were they honoring the Constitution and the rights it protected? I think the answer to that question is clear in retrospect. One of the reasons our Constitution exists is to protect the rights of minorities. Currently, gay and lesbian individuals comprise approximately 3% of the population in our state. Prop 8 allows roughly 97% of the majority to vote on conferring civil rights to 3% of the minority in this election, and this is wrong. The Supreme Court is not comprised of "activist judges", but rather, individuals sworn to uphold the the Constitution and laws of our state.
Rosa Parks spoke out in support of marriage equality before she died in 2005. Corretta Scott King (MLK Jr.'s wife) also spoke out in support of marriage equality before she died in 2006. As leaders of the African American Civil Rights Movement, these women understood bigotry, prejudice, and discrimination, and spoke out against it no matter what form it took. And let's not forget that it wasn't until 1920 when all American women won full rights to vote in political elections. Can you imagine what it would be like today if you didn't have the right to vote? This is what civil liberties are all about and why it's imperative NOT to vote yes on 8.
I would like to address some of the deception that has shadowed the Prop 8 campaign so far:
FICTION: Churches could lose their tax-exemption status. FACT: Legalized same-sex marriage does not force any church to change their practices and it does not leave any church vulnerable to losing tax-exempt status. In fact, the court decision regarding marriage specifically says "no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs."
FICTION: Children will be forced to learn about same-sex marriages in schools . FACT: California gives parents an absolute right to remove their children from any classes pertaining to health, sexuality or family planning.
I am also disheartened by the obvious lack of separation between church and state in this election, which is in direct contrast to what our founding fathers intended. I certainly support freedom of religious beliefs and worship, but there is a line crossed when active steps are taken to permanantly discriminate against a group of individuals who believe different from you. Too much hatred, war and death is claimed in the name of God and one only needs to turn on the news to witness it. So far, the Mormon church has given roughly 40% of the $23 million dollars raised to support Prop 8, yet the Mormons themselves were a persecuted people who fled communities and faced incarceration for their own marital practices which, for years included the practice of plural marriage (polygamy). I find it ironic and sad to see the persecuted turn full circle, now passing judgement on others, all in the name of God.
(Note: Morris A. Thurston, a Mormon professor at Brigham Young University law school, confirms what others have been saying for weeks that the Yes on 8 advertising which claims that same-sex marriage would affect teaching in schools is "untrue" and "misleading," and that nothing in Prop. 8 would affect California schools. The Thurston memo has been posted to www.mormonsformarriage.com, a website sponsored by Mormons who do not support their Church's active campaign against gay marriage. As this Mormon scholar says, "Relying on deceptive arguments is not only contrary to gospel principles, but ultimately works against the very mission of the Church.")
If civil liberties still aren't enough to prompt you to vote NO on Prop 8, also consider this: gay marriage is giving the economy a much needed boost. The San Francisco controller's office has estimated that the marriages will bring $19.8 million to the city's economy by 2010 and researchers at UCLA have reported that the marriages could bring $684 million to the state's economy during the next three years. In our current economic climate, a fiscal impact of $684 million dollars isn't just a drop in the bucket.
What does Prop 8 mean to me personally? My wife and I were one of the first same-sex couples to marry in CA and it was the happiest day of our lives. We met folks on that day that had waited nearly 40 years to form a legal family. It was a day of joyful tears and long awaited celebration.
When people talk of getting married at City Hall, there isn't often a connotation of romance, pomp and circumstance. For us, however, it was a day I wouldn't trade for anything. We began our journey as two people who love each other and we've emerged as a family, complete with the legal regulations and protections of the state. For anyone who believes that civil unions are a good enough substitute for marriage or that "separate but equal" breeds anything other than inequality, I wish you could feel the liberation of shedding second-class citizenship. I shed mine on June 17th, and I plead for your support now, to help me keep my family safe. How would you feel if you woke up on Nov. 5th and realized that you could no longer be married to your spouse? That's how it could feel for me and for the 12,000 other couples who've been married since June.
Without equal marriage rights, couples who share their lives in loving relationships are denied basic marital rights such as property inheritance and joint ownership of assets, pension benefits, employment benefits, and even hospital visitation rights. Domestic partnerships can bridge much of the (roughly) 300 state rights conferred in marriage, but why should you ask me to drink from a separate water fountain? I am no threat to you or to your family.
I am proud of who I am and my sexual orientation was not a choice. I don't want you to watch the advertisements on TV and somehow feel better about your choice to vote against me. I'm not a number. I have a name and I want you to know it. I have a face and I invite you to recognize me in the community. I spend most of my days helping other people and I need your help now. We will all live richer, safer lives if we learn tolerance and teach it to our children. I pray that our society learns from the past by refusing to embrace yet another form of discrimination and hatred called homophobia. We are your neighbors, kids, parents, doctors and friends. We live productive lives, pay taxes and deserve equal treatment under the law. It's the only thing we're asking for.
Please educate yourself on the issues and don't buy into the fear. I am tolerant of those who don't personally agree with gay marriage, I simply ask that you carefully consider the ramifications of voting to write discrimination in to the state Constitution. It's not the right thing to do and it's bad for all Californians.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. If you don't personally know any gay or lesbian people and you want to see what a "yes" vote would take away from my life, feel free to view my wedding photos at Web Link and at Web Link No matter what your views, I simply ask that you're respectful and don't leave negative comments on my page.
I wish you and your family lots of joy and peace as we approach the holiday season. I hope to still be married on November 5th so PLEASE join me in voting NO on 8! Your vote is crucial! My wife and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
NO on 8 = No on Hate