Today’s letter – how “separate but equal” became the law of the land the first time

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

“Separate but Equal” was made the law of the land in 1896 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Plessy v. Ferguson.

On June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy boarded a car of the East Louisiana Railroad that was designated by Louisiana for use by white patrons only. Although Plessy was one-eighth black and seven-eighths white, under Louisiana state law he was classified as an African-American, and thus required to sit in the “colored” car. When Plessy refused to leave the white car and move to the colored car, he was arrested and jailed.

The case wound its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 7 to 1 decision the Court rejected the view that the law implied any inferiority of blacks, and contended that the law separated the two races as a matter of public policy, not inequity. Justice Brown declared, “We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff’s argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.”

The sole dissenter, Justice John Marshall Harlan, wrote “…in the eye of the law, there is no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.” It took until 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education decision to change this law.

Governor, I will be happy if the California Supreme Court upholds Proposition 8 only when it can be demonstrated that a civil union is the same thing as marriage. As a gay dad who has been (and is) both Domestic Partnered and Married, I am quite skeptical that that is ever possible as long as my government allows the distinction to remain. Until then it is apartheid all over again, and that does not turn out well for anybody.

Sincerely,

Today’s letter – No Papists

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

If you think the gays have it bad, did you know that England’s 1688 Bill of Rights prohibits heirs to the British throne from marrying a Catholic? As recently as 1978, the queen’s cousin Prince Michael of Kent was removed from the line of succession when he married Marie-Christine von Reibnitz.

Catholics make up about 8% of Britian’s population, but Prime Minister Gordon Brown pointed out that “in the 21st century, people do expect discrimination to be removed.”

Since the British head of state is also regent of 15 other nations including Canada, Australia, Jamaica and Barbados, changing the law is complicated since all would have to agree to the changes.

Yes, it is complicated, but what a relief to hear a politician talking about removing discrimination to boost their popularity. Maybe your Republicans should try it?

Sincerely,

Today’s letter – governors Wallace and Schwarzenegger

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

It was 1963 – just 45 years ago today – that Governor George Wallace stood in a campus doorway while attempting to exclude two black students from the University of Alabama.

Telling people that they’re too dumb to attend school, then standing in the doorway while they are trying to do it, is just stupid. Excluding even one person from fully participating in our economy and society hurts us all.

Now 45 years later, the same people who were opposed to racial integration are trying to block same-sex marriage. They say that homosexuals are not capable or worthy of forming long-term stable relationships, then slam the door on those who simply seek that stability. It’s the same argument, and it’s still stupid.

Every bone in my body knows that all of our fundamental freedoms depend on equal legal protections. It is un-American and un-Christian to stand in the way of people who are just trying to do the right thing.

I thank God that you aren’t the kind of governor George Wallace was, and that you’re willing to fight with us to change “separate but equal” into “equal,” even against the policy of your political party.

Sincerely,

Today’s stamp: “Toward equality in our schools” celebrating the Mendez v. Westminster decision to integrate our schools. That was 1947 – who argues for segregation now?

Today’s letter – the popular vote

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

Do you think civil rights should be decided by an emotional popular vote, or by the ultimate popular vote, the Constitution?

Every human rights victory we hold dear (like suffrage, apartheid, the United Nations and slavery) was installed by decree, not by popular vote.

Please help a pro-same-sex-marriage Supreme Court decision to stick in the law, and in the minds of the people. Please support the freedom to marry for all Californians.

Yours,

Today’s letter – Traditional marriage

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

When President Gerald R. Ford was running for his first term in congress in 1948, he delayed his marriage to Elizabeth Warren until after the election because he was worried that voters would punish him for marrying a divorced woman.

That was “traditional marriage” back then: you got one try to get it right, and after that you were ‘defective’ and couldn’t even take communion at church.

Much has changed in fifty years. Now Tom Cruise can get married as many times as he wants to, and nobody bats an eye. Obviously “traditional marriage” is simply a social and economic construct that unites two people and their families according to their individual choice.

Governor, would you help bring “traditional marriage” back to the people, by allowing all of the people of California to marry the person that they want to?

If Gerald Ford can marry a divorced woman and be elected President, I should have the freedom to marry the person I love, whether they are a felon, foreigner, divorcee, widower, ugly, white, Catholic, Republican, or – in my case – male.

Yours,

Today’s letter – let the candidates wed

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

After the news hit that Barack Obama is a distant cousin of Brad Pitt, and Hillary Rodham Clinton is related to Pitt’s girlfriend, Angelina Jolie, I was reminded of what Brad Pitt told Esquire Magazine in September, 2006: that he and Angelina would not get married until gay and lesbians were able to get married.

As a relative of a Kennedy, I believe that you have an obligation to fulfill: to marry Barack to Hillary and all Americans to liberty, by simply supporting the freedom to marry.

Yours,

Today’s letter – don’t protect marriage, improve it

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

Marriage sure has gone through a lot of changes in the past centuries.

A girl’s father used to decide who his daughter would marry. Then there were bans on interfaith and interracial marriages. Nowadays, almost everybody can choose who they marry – except for me. A special ban on same-sex couples takes away my right to choose who I marry and gives it to the government.

The only person who should be making the choice of who I marry is me.

Governor, it is time to stop “protecting” marriage, and start improving it.

Yours,

Today’s letter – Big Brother should not block love

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

The latest installment of the CBS reality show Big Brother has a new twist. Eight couples are bonded together in the Big Brother house as “soul mates” based on personality matching performed before the show.

In addition to the standard “cute” couples, there are also an interracial couple, an intergenerational couple, an interfaith couple, and a same-sex couple.

All of these pairs are competing on equal footing, with one exception. If the “showmance” blossoms, all of these couples can get married except the same-sex couple.

Why would you take it upon yourself, Governor, to stand in the way of what anybody with the brains God gave geese knows? Love comes in many flavors, and it should be up to the people in the relationship – not Big Brother – to decide if they want to marry.

I wish you would support the freedom for all committed couples to make the commitment of marriage.

Yours,

Today’s letter – copy cats

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

The greatest complement, it is said, is to be copied. By that measure, Maryland has given us a great big hug.

The Maryland State Senator from Prince George’s County, Gwendolyn T. Britt, was arrested in 1960 for riding the wrong part of a segregated merry-go-round in Glen Echo Park. Since then, she had adopted a new civil rights battle: to legalize same-sex marriage.

Although she died Jan. 12, her legislation was introduced last week with 49 co-authors. The bill is almost identical to the California law that you vetoed last fall, even in name. The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act would remove language in the state code that limits marriage to unions between men and women, and exempt religious leaders from having to perform or recognize same-sex unions.

I’m proud that California was the first state where the people’s branch of government put a marriage equality bill on their governor’s desk, setting an example for legislative action throughout our great nation. But I am equally sad that we were also the first state to have a civil rights bill like this vetoed by its governor.

Maryland didn’t introduce this bill to copy us, they did it because they know that strong families and individual choice are the cornerstone of Maryland’s economy and a free society. It is too late for you to sign AB 43, but it’s not too late for you to support the freedom to marry for all Californians. Please, Governor, I don’t want to have to copy Maryland.

Yours,

Today’s letter – Stand up for tolerance

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

Author Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson is a black conservative leader who believes that immorality and the collapse of the family are the biggest problems in the black community. How does he want to fix the problem? By blocking gay marriages.

Reverend Peterson has been spending the past decade fighting against same-sex marriage and gay hate crimes bills. Such legislation, apparently, gives special rights to homosexuals and takes away the rights of Christians, and fighting against other Americans is way more important to him than actually fixing the problems in his community.

“I can absolutely guarantee you that if [gay hate crimes] should pass, then it’s over for Christians,” he states. “We will not be able to speak out against homosexuality.”

Clearly, this guy is a whacko. His reasoning is faulty and his motivation is questionable. What puzzles me is why he is able to get your ear, Governor? Tell me – why are people like Reverend Peterson able to convince you and the Republican Assembly to deprive a group of people their liberty?

I wish you would stand up to bullies like Reverend Peterson, because while there ought to be room for belief in our society, there should be no allowance for intolerance.

Yours,