Today’s letter – Poland deserves better

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

The more I look closely at what leaders say about same-sex marriage, the more I see that they are responsible for the character of their people.

I have written to you before about great leaders like Bishop Tutu and Prime Minister Zaparto who use words to unite their people. And then there is Poland’s leader, Mr. Kaczynski, who showed a video clip of two New Yorkers getting married, saying that “the lack of an exact definition of marriage as a union of man and woman could challenge the moral order commonly accepted in Poland.”

The people Mr. Kaczynski used as poster children for moral decay without their knowledge or permission were two New Yorkers who were as mystified as I am as to why the leader of Poland would consider them a national threat.

“I’m a happily married man. I have a good life,” one of them said, “For us it was a moment of love. Here was a political leader turning that around.”

Back here in California, for all of the time I spend studying what leaders say about same-sex marriage, I still don’t understand why you repeatedly tell the people that it is somehow OK to turn our moments of love into something reprehensible or disgusting. I wish you would tell the people of California that there is nothing wrong with same-sex marriage; there is everything wrong with banning it.

Yours,

Today’s letter – a bad apple

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

I believe it is part of our Governor’s job is to see what happens in other states so the best can be brought to California and the worst left where it is.

Kentucky has turned out to be a pretty perilous place to be gay. Even after a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in 2004, things were looking up when a phone message by Pat Boone could not save the anti-gay Governor Ernie Fletcher from getting booted out of office, and state universities started offering partner benefits to all their employees – not just the ones who are allowed to marry.

But a bad tree bears bad fruit: Kentucky’s state Senate passed a bill 30-5 late last month to bar state agencies, including public universities, from granting any benefits for the partners of their lesbian and gay employees.

University presidents from eight Universities including the University of Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University and University of Louisville opposed the bill because they say it hurts recruitment efforts for researchers and professors. “If you want to compete with the best universities and the best corporations, you need to be able to offer the same types of benefits they offer,” according University of Louisville spokesman John Drees.

You must know and understand the cost of discrimination, Governor. If our Senate had brought a bill to your desk to specially exclude some people from our society and our economy because of what they are or what they believe, I have no doubt you would veto that. So why do you stop short of supporting the freedom to marry?

Please, Governor, leave the rotten apples in Kentucky and bring us into the 21st century with the most basic freedom: the freedom to marry.

Yours,

Today’s letter – Freedom Interrupted

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

Tomorrow Oregon was set to allow same-sex couples to enter into a better-than-nothing civil union structure like California, New Hampshire, Vermont and some other states. More than 500 couples planned to take their vows on New Year’s Day.

Just two days ago, a federal judge overrode the state law, saying that the needs of these couples to make a commitment to each other should take a back seat to the bitter desire of a few to keep them apart. Now 528 couples are waiting in limbo while their relationships are put on trial.

Would you like it if your wedding was canceled with just three days notice, Governor? I’m guessing not. Please help swing the mood in California so that what happened in Oregon can’t happen here (again).

You don’t have to break the law to say that you believe committed couples should have the freedom to choose marriage. You just have to break your silence.

Yours,

Today’s letter – Uruguay has more freedom than America

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

I used to get excited when a new country announced recognition of same-sex couples. For example, Uruguay is about to provide equivalent social security, pension, inheritance, and parenting rights to both heterosexual and homosexual couples through a “civil union” structure. I used to see it as a tipping point in the way people saw – and treated – their lesbian and gay brethren.

But with Civil Unions or marriage available throughout almost forty countries representing every continent except Antarctica, I’m starting to instead see it as a countdown until the United States is the last country on earth that fails to allow her lesbian and gay citizens to fully participate in the economy and community.

How can we say America is the “land of the free” when people in Uruguay get social security, pension, inheritance, and parenting rights, while my partner of ten years and I become legal strangers as soon as we step out of our home state? Uruguay!!!!!!

It is truly a global embarrassment that you, Governor, tolerate the negative and divisive bullying tactics that the Campaign for Children and Families (CCF) and other opponents of equality are using to carve out and marginalize an entire group of people based on who they happen to love.

Change begins at home. The next year will be pivotal in the fight between the opponents of equality and fair-minded Californians. I need you to do more than stay silent: please support the freedom to marry so the United States might someday join the world community in treating all of her citizens with dignity and respect.

Yours,

Today’s letter – A good team at bat, but one bad player put us way behind on human rights

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

I knew California was the first state to end the ban on interracial marriages (1948) and I always assumed we would continue to be leaders and proponents for all civil rights. Imagine my surprise when I discovered California didn’t add sexual orientation to its protected classes until ten years after Wisconsin (1982). We were also out-scored by Massachusetts (1989), Connecticut (1991) and Hawaii (1991).

Likewise with marriage equivalency, we were behind the ball. Even Hawaii had domestic partnerships before we did (1997) and Vermont scored in 2000, Our Domestic-Partnership-is-the-same-as-marriage law didn’t get to home base until 2005, five years too late.

On marriage, we were poised to take the lead when love went to bat in San Francisco in the spring of 2004, and when our legislature became the first to channel that human need from the people to the governor. But Massachusetts won the World Series of civil rights when they approved marriage and you struck us out – becoming not part of the first state to end the ban on same-sex marriage, but the first governor to unilaterally block the people’s freedom to marry.

I am embarrassed that you took away our victory then, and embarrassed that you refuse to stand on the side of freedom and equality now. Please stop telling your friends, colleagues and neighbors that their relationships – and their humanity – is less important than yours, and support the freedom to marry.

Yours,

Today’s letter – What’s Wrong with San Francisco?

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

As a Californian who is proud of his state, I am embarrassed by what happened in Kentucky. In a last-ditch effort to get their candidate re-elected, The Republican Party paid Pat Boone to record a warning that if the Democrat nominee is elected Governor, the state will become an awful place, “like San Francisco.”

Of course, Kentucky could be so lucky as to have the thriving economy, tourism and world-class reputation of San Francisco, but Ernie Fletcher’s reelection campaign makes it sound otherwise.

In the recorded message, sent to registered Republicans by telephone, Mr. Boone explains that “Ernie Fletcher is a typical Kentuckian, he’s worked long and hard for the state, its people, and its traditions … and now he faces a man who wants his job who has consistently supported every homosexual cause: same-sex marriage, gay adoption, special rights to gay, lesbian, bisexual, even transgender individuals. … you [don’t] want a governor who’d like Kentucky to be like another San Francisco. Please reelect Ernie Fletcher.”

I don’t know why, in 2007, people still seem to think that personal liberty is a bad thing, or that equal rights are special rights, but San Francisco deserves better.

As a fellow Governor and Republican, could you have a chat with Ernie Fletcher? Maybe you could explain if he didn’t bash minorities and focused on what he could do for the people instead of against the people, he would not have lost by a landslide. In contrast, Ernie’s apparent nemesis, Mayor Gavin Newsom, even survived a major scandal and was reelected.

Perhaps the next time your Republican Party consultants want you to go negative on the homosexuals, you might remind them of what happens when people go anti-gay. We wouldn’t want San Francisco to become a Kentucky.

Faithfully Yours,

Today’s letter – nobody wants to be a ‘test case’

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

The story of the Utah couple who took in their niece’s four children broke my heart. Gregg Valdez and his partner Mike Oberg offered their familiar home so the kids could stay at the same school and stay close to their mother while she was in rehab. But Gregg and Mike were unable to get married, hence they would be violating a state law that forbids unmarried couples from becoming foster or adoptive parents, and on Monday the children were ordered moved an hour away to live with their grandmother.

“We all came to the same conclusion — we didn’t want to get involved in a big court battle, and we wanted to keep the kids together,” Valdez explained. “I could have fought it, but I didn’t think it would be in the best interest of the kids. It’ll be hard at first, but I know they’ll be taken care of.”

Thank God California doesn’t ban “cohabitation,” but we’re almost as bad for forbidding marriage. As long as couples are “unmarried” they are going to be treated as less than equal. This one bad law – the one you could have ended with AB 43 – puts couples into uncharted legal territory anytime anything unusual happens. They face a “big court battle” over every little thing. It punishes committed couples just for being gay – and their kids suffer.

Only marriage guarantees access to a time-tested legal framework. Only marriage keeps what happened to Gregg and Mike and their four cousins from happening in our state, or to our kids.

I wish you would support the freedom to marry, especially when the alternative is letting hate and intolerance divide families.

Yours,

Today’s letter – inspiring leadership

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

I love hearing “change of heart” stories.

Yesterday, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, a Republican like you, endorsed a resolution supporting the freedom to marry, reversing his previous position favoring Domestic Partnerships.

He said “For three decades, I have worked to bring enlightenment, justice and equality to all parts of our community. As I reflected on the choices that I had before me last night I could just not bring myself to tell an entire group of people in our community they were less important, less worthy or less deserving of the rights and responsibilities of marriage than anyone else simply because of their sexual orientation.”

It is so nice to hear Republicans making statements like this instead of statements like Larry Craig’s. And yours.

I wish you would ask your Attorney General for a new opinion on the legality of signing AB 43. I wish you would ask your Chief of Staff if she feels that her relationship is protected equally under the law. I wish you would meet with just one family that have had kids without access to the security of marriage. I wish you call Mayor Sanders (619-236-6330) to hear from his own mouth why he changed his decision.

Then I wish you would consider what is right and fair, and have a change of heart. I’ll forgive you for reversing your promise to veto this; I won’t forgive you – or the GOP – for ignoring my family over what seems like party politics without even the courtesy of listening.

Sincerely,

Attachment: Mayor Sanders’ statement

“With me this afternoon is my wife, Rana.

“I am here this afternoon to announce that I will sign the resolution that the City Council passed yesterday directing the City Attorney to file a brief in support of gay marriage.

“My plan, that has been reported publicly, was to veto the resolution, so I feel like I owe all San Diegans right now an explanation for this change of heart. During the campaign two years ago, I announced that I did not support gay marriage and instead supported civil unions and domestic partnerships.

“I have personally wrestled with that position ever since. My opinions on this issue has evolved significantly, as I think the opinions of millions of Americans from all walks of life have. In order to be consistent with the position I took during the mayoral election, I intended to veto the Council resolution. As late as yesterday afternoon, that was my position.

“The arrival of the resolution, to sign or veto, in my office late last night forced me to reflect and search my soul for the right thing to do. I have decided to lead with my heart, to do what I think is right, and to take a stand on behalf of equality and social justice. The right thing for me to do is to sign this resolution.

“For three decades, I have worked to bring enlightenment, justice and equality to all parts of our community. As I reflected on the choices that I had before me last night, I just could not bring myself to tell an entire group of people in our community they were less important, less worthy or less deserving of the rights and responsibilities of marriage, than anyone else — simply because of their sexual orientation.

“A decision to veto this resolution would have been inconsistent with the values I have embraced over the past 30 years. I do believe that times have changed. And with changing time, and new life experiences, come different opinions. I think that’s natural, and certainly it is true in my case.

“Two years ago, I believed that civil unions were a fair alternative. Those beliefs, in my case, have since changed. The concept of a “separate but equal” institution is not something that I can support.

“I acknowledge that not all members of our community will agree or perhaps even understand my decision today. All I can offer them is that I am trying to do what I believe is right. I have close family members and friends who are members of the gay and lesbian community. Those folks include my daughter Lisa, as well as members of my personal staff. I want for them the same thing that we all want for our loved ones, for each of them to find a mate whom they love deeply and who loves them back, someone with whom they can grow old together and share life’s experiences. And I want their relationships to be protected equally under the law. In the end, I couldn’t look any of them in the face and tell them that their relationships — their very lives — were any less meaningful than the marriage that I share with my wife Rana. Thank you.”

More Canada Quotes

I got many more quotations that I could use in a letter. I think I probably already used too many. Here’s my list:

I’m a Catholic and I’m praying. But I am the prime minister of Canada and…I’m acting as a person responsible for the nation. The problem of my religion — I deal with it in other circumstances.

— Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, August 13 2003

If people want to do something and it doesn’t hurt other people, doesn’t reduce other people’s rights, we should let them do it. Why not?

— Canadian Defense Minister John McCallum, August 13, 2003

My responsibility as Prime Minister, my duty to Canada and to Canadians, is to defend the Charter in its entirety. Not to pick and choose the rights that our laws shall protect and those that are to be ignored. Not to decree those who shall be equal and those who shall not.

– Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, February 1, 2005

[S]ome have counseled the government to extend to Gays and Lesbians the right to civil union. This would give same-sex couples many of the rights of a wedded couple, but their relationships would not legally be considered marriage. In other words, they would be equal, but not quite as equal as the rest of Canadians. …[S]eparate but equal is not equal.

– Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, February 1, 2005

Less than equal is less than adequate. To create another institution [such as civil unions] just contributes to the fact that we would tell those members of the gay and lesbian community that they are not entirely part of our society. Why wouldn’t they be part of marriage?

— Canadian Justice Minister Martin Cauchon August 13, 2003

If a prime minister and a national government are willing to take away the rights of one group, what is to say they will stop at that? How can we as a nation of minorities ever hope, ever believe, ever trust that [the constitution] will be there to protect us tomorrow?

– Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, February 1, 2005

We won’t be appealing the recent decision on the definition of marriage. Rather, we’ll be proposing legislation that will protect the right of churches and religious organizations to sanctify marriage as they define it. At the same time, we will ensure that our legislation includes and legally recognizes the union of same-sex couples.”

– Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, June 16, 2003

We embrace freedom and equality in theory, Mr. Speaker. We must also embrace them in fact.

– Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, February 1, 2005

Many Canadians will want to accept both of these principles: protect the traditional definition of marriage and protect the rights of minorities. The essence of my message today is that we cannot do both. We cannot have it both ways. We must make a choice between traditional marriage and the protection of minority rights.

— Canadian Minister of National Revenue John McCallum, March 21, 2005

It is the responsibility of Parliament to ensure that minority rights are uniform across the country. The government cannot, and should not, pick and choose which rights they will defend and which rights they will ignore.

– Irwin Cotler, Canadian Justice Minister

In civil law, marriage is a contractual arrangement. We support the government’s desire and, we believe, obligation to maintain the equality of all people before the law. Property rights, inheritance issues, access to care and personal support, are a matter of justice, and must be available in a fair and equitable manner to all.

— Bishop Colin Johnson, Anglican Diocese of Toronto, Canada, December 9, 2004

It is incumbent upon us, as a minority, to stand up in solidarity with Canada’s gays and lesbians despite the fact that many in our community believe our religion does not condone homosexuality.”

— Rizwana Jafri, president, Muslim Canadian Congress, February 8, 2005

You have to look at history as an evolution of society.

– Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, June 18, 2003

Same-sex marriages are now a reality in Canada and I don’t think there will be any turning back. Frankly, I would have been quite shocked if someone had tried to tell me [25 years ago] that this is where the logic of the equality provision [of the Charter of Rights] would lead. But lead here it did.

– Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, April 30, 2005

Today’s letter – Lessons from Spain

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

As you consider your position on AB 43, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, you might like to hear from some people I consider to be real leaders who were in a situation very similar to yours.

Spain’s path to marriage equality was much faster than Canada’s. Their prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, advocated marriage parity and survived an election doing so, with 61% of Spaniards supporting full marriage. These are the words he used to do it:

I will never understand those who proclaim love as the foundation of life, while denying so radically protection, understanding and affection to our neighbors, our friends, our relatives, our colleagues. What kind of love is this that excludes those who experience their sexuality in a different way?
– May 11, 2005

It is time to bring to an end, once and for all, the intolerable discrimination still suffered by many Spaniards exclusively by virtue of their sexual preferences.

Homosexuals and transsexuals deserve the same public consideration as heterosexuals and have the right to live freely the life that they themselves have chosen.
– April 15, 2004

He is my new hero. You have some work to do. Please consider as a start signing AB 43 when it reaches your desk.

Yours,