Today’s letter – a great precedent

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

In a development that bodes well for a favorable decision in the same-sex marriage case pending in California’s Supreme Court, today’s Wall Street Journal reported that the highest court of the Presbyterian Church ruled that a Northern California minister had not violated denominational law when she officiated at the weddings of two lesbian couples.

A regional judicial committee had rebuked the Rev. Jane Spahr for performing the ceremony, but the church’s high court cleared her of all wrongdoing.

If the Presbyterian Church can witness and support the commitments of committed couples, perhaps someday our government can too.

Yours,

Today’s letter – Upholding the Constitution is not optional

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

When you vetoed AB 43, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, you said that you couldn’t sign it because it would have been illegal and you would have gone to jail.

I believe you committed a more criminal act by failing to uphold the Constitution to which you swore allegiance. The Constitution, as you know, says that you are not supposed to pick out a whole group of people because of what they believe or how they were born, and force them to follow a different set of laws than everybody else.

You should have signed AB 43 because it was the right thing to do, and if you went to prison for following your Constitution obligation to protect Californians from discrimination for their religion, gender or sexual orientation, that too would be the right thing to do.

Martin Luther King Jr. explains:

“I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: – ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

It is too late for you to sign AB 43, but it is not too late for you to end your silence and protect the Constitution by saying everybody deserves the same freedom to marry.

Yours,

Today’s letter – something you can do for California’s budget

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

I’ve seen your ads all over the place urging voters to vote Yes on the Indian Gaming Propositions on the ballot. You say that will bring millions of tax revenue into the state at a badly needed time.

Should a new Proposition 22 initiative go on the ballot to constitutionally ban gay marriage, I want you to commit right now to doing ads to oppose it. A permanent ban on same-sex marriage would cost California $16 Billion in windfall and $16 Million in annual savings, and sadly alienate millions of Californians from the economy and society.

You could have spoken out against Proposition 22 but instead you silently perpetuated its evil. You could commit right now to fixing that wrong, by committing to support the freedom to marry.

Yours,

Today’s letter – Lincoln vs. Douglas

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

Abraham Lincoln constantly ranks among the three top U.S. presidents. Before he became president, though, he spent a lot of time arguing against a guy named Stephen A. Douglas.

Senator Douglas believed that in a democracy the people should have the right to decide whether or not to allow slavery in their territory, rather than have such a decision imposed on them by Congress. Each state would decide if they were a “free” state or a “slave” state.

Lincoln said about the act, “I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it…enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites [and] causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because [it insists] that there is no right principle of action but self-interest.”

In his election bid for Senator, Lincoln identified the problem with giving states the right to discriminate: “‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.'(Mark 3:25) I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.”

Lincoln won more popular votes, but Douglas won more seats and was elected to Congress.

Just so the metaphor is not lost on you, Governor, gay marriage is a battle just like slavery was 150 years ago. Whether through states rights or a Constitutional amendment, making some people more free than others only makes us all half-free. The only way to achieve freedom for all is to give all the freedom to marry.

That freedom must start at home. Please, make California a free state and support the freedom to marry.

Yours,

Today’s letter – here is what you could say

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

As you approach the deadline for acting on legislation from this fiscal year, I thought I might help out by writing a message for you to use in relation to AB 43, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act.

I was careful to address your objections in the past as well as the ultimate issue of using mere laws – even voter initiatives – to override the Constitution.

My fellow Californians.

I said that I would veto AB 43 because I believe the courts and the people should decide the fate of marriage in this state. I also said that lesbian and gay couples are entitled to full protection under the law and should not be discriminated against based upon their relationships. Up to now, I had seen these as being in contradiction to each other, but I have come to realize that it is not possible to treat these couples fairly while blocking them from marriage.

The people have made it clear through their elected representatives and the State Constitution that they do not tolerate discrimination in any form. Statutes passed by the legislature and even by voter initiatives are not able to create discrimination without changing the Constitution.

I also said that I would veto AB 43 because I lacked the authority to reverse an initiative approved by the people of California. I am not seeking that authority because I do not intend to reverse an initiative statute.

The initiative statute passed by the voters as Proposition 22 in 2000 enacted California Family Code Section 308.5 relating to marriages performed in other jurisdictions. It did not change the Constitution.

AB 43 changes Sections 300 and 302 of the California Family Code to say that a marriage is a contractual relationship between two persons. This is the original language of the Family Code prior to a legislative statute passed in 1977. It makes no changes to the implementation or enforcement of section 308.5.

AB 43 also provides for the free exercise of religion by institutions who believe in performing marriages of same-sex couples. Article I, section 4 of the California Constitution guarantees free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference, and as I explained earlier, Proposition 22 did not amend the Constitution.

Structures such as Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions, which I have supported in the past, are undermining marriage by providing a way for couples to cohabitate without making the commitment of marriage. Proposition 22 was passed to defend marriage as an institution, not to defend it against some kind of invader. We can not protect marriage by excluding people who want to support it, or by creating imaginary enemies to keep out. These tactics divide us and weaken our ability to face the real problem. The best way to follow the intent of Proposition 22 is to provide one set of laws governing relationships in this state and providing universal access to them.

The courts and the people will have their say. The issue regarding the constitutionality of section 308.5 and its prohibition against recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere is currently before the Court of Appeal in San Francisco and will likely be decided by the Supreme Court. Likewise, if the people want to exclude certain families from the security of marriage, they will need to pass a Constitutional amendment to do that. In the meantime, it is wrong to deny any citizen the freedom to marry, and just as wrong for me to block this bill.

I intend to uphold the Constitution of this state and the will of the people as expressed through their elected representatives by signing this bill into law.

The tide is turning, Governor. Do you want to be on the side supporting love, or the side supporting hate? Please sign AB 43 and support the freedom to marry.

Sincerely,

Today’s letter – The People cannot “vote to discriminate”

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

As a pragmatist, I don’t mind so much that you’re planning to veto AB 43 for political reasons; however I was sad to hear you say that discrimination is somehow acceptable because “the people voted for it.”

It is flat-out wrong to force people who would prefer to get married into Domestic Partnerships. You wouldn’t like to be treated that way, and neither do they.

The People thought this Golden principle was important enough to put in the Constitution, which predates and, I think we can agree, overrides Proposition 22. They voted away their right to separate and oppress minorities, and they put it to you to intervene and stop injustices.

So even if the people did indeed vote to discriminate, it is not OK for you to let them. The people elected you above all else to make sure that nothing interferes with the freedom of adults make choices for themselves. I wish you would do that, if not by signing AB 43, then by at least speaking out against this special mistreatment of your fellow citizens. That you would do neither, and blame it on the people, is reprehensible.

Sincerely,