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 – Arrest California

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

I have a civics question for you. Who is responsible for making sure that California follows its own laws?

The reason that I’m asking is because California seems to be breaking the law by issuing marriage licenses, and I can’t remember from high school who is supposed to fix that. As you know, The California Supreme Court ruled last June that we cannot issue marriage licenses to one group of people and not to another. And then Proposition 8 passed that said that we can’t issue marriage licenses to one group of people.

It seems to me that California ought to stop issuing marriage licenses to everybody – same-sex and opposite-sex couples alike. It is the only thing that is fair.

The people have said that Domestic Partnership is good enough, right? So who is supposed to get California to follow her laws?

Thank you in advance for your help,

Today’s letter – GOP goes Gay

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

I just wanted to make sure that you noticed Meghan McCain’s memo to the GOP, “Go Gay.” In it, she blames her father’s recent loss to President Obama squarely on the Republican Party’s use of anti-gay rhetoric to whip up the base. She reminds us that the most popular Republican of all time, Ronald Reagan, supported homosexuals during the 1978 Briggs attack, and argues that if the Republican Party ever wants to see that kind of popularity again, it needs to do things like Lincoln and Reagan, not like Anita Bryant and G. W. Bush.

Ms. McCain spells it out:

If you think certain rights should not apply to certain people, then you are saying those people are not equal. People may always have a difference of opinion on certain lifestyles, but championing a position that wants to treat people unequally isn’t just un-Republican. At its fundamental core, it’s un-American.

So, Governor, are you going to take up Ms. McCain’s challenge by coming forward and playing an instrumental role in securing gay rights like Gavin Newsom, or are you going to sit on the sidelines like George Wallace until the courts decide for you? I wish you would take Ms. McCain’s advice and save the Republicans.

Sincerely,

Letter to Vermont Governor Jim Douglas – You Stand Alone

Governor Jim Douglas
109 State Street, Pavilion
Montpelier, VT 05609-0101

April 7, 2009

RE: Civil marriage bill H275

Dear Governor Douglas,

I just read the news that you vetoed H275, the bill that would make civil marriage available to every Vermonter.

What I don’t get is why when court after court after court says that bans on same sex marriage are unconstitutional, that you insisted on perpetuating such bans?

All around you, in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ontario, Quebec and even in Vermont itself, the courts have said that “freedom means freedom for everybody.”

I wish you would take their message to heart, done the right thing and signed H275. Instead, you will go down in history as an Opponent of Equality, enemy of freedom, and just another Republican who proves the rule that people who hate their constituents are unfit for public office.

Sincerely,

Today’s letter – Court after Court

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

Court after court after court have declared that denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples is unconstitutional. From Hawaii in 1993, to Iowa in 2009, the courts have all said that “freedom means freedom for everybody.”

The Opponents of Equality have been busy changing our Constitutions so that some are more worthy of civil marriage than others.

This is wrong. It is sad and pathetic to lose the principles Americans value most – that all of us are created equal, with equal opportunity to life, liberty and happiness.

I wish you would do more to oppose this tyranny and explain to the people of California that it is wrong to treat others as you would not like to be treated yourself.

Sincerely,

Today’s letter – an opportunty to reaffirm justice and freedom

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

With the upcoming Constitutional Amendment to Limit Marriage, I think we are missing a great opportunity. Everybody is framing this as a risk that voters will “take away marriage” and cause “legal chaos for same-sex couples across the country,” or in your case, just plain “unnecessary.”

We should be looking at this as an historic opportunity for the people to reaffirm what the Supreme Court said: using the Constitution to take an entire class of people and treat them differently because of how they were born or what they believe is fundamentally wrong.

Now is the time for all good people to come to the aid of their country. Please urge the people of California to uphold the constitution, and vow to vote no on Amendments to Limit freedom and liberty.

Sincerely,

Today’s stamp: Silver Surfer, from the Marvel Comics “Super Heroes” collection. Mr. Surfer took the threat of the destruction of his home planet and turned it into an opportunity to do good.

Today’s letter – hate lost, now it’s time to do good

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

As you know, the California Supreme Court has decided that same-sex marriages will proceed, consistent with its ruling and the State Constitution.

In trying to convince the court to postpone the marriages until after a vote in November, the Opponents of Equality, specifically the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Campaign for California Families, claimed that “legal chaos” would result if marriage licenses were issued for six months and then blocked by a constitutional amendment. They might be right.

Well, the marriages are proceeding, and they are at risk of being overturned. If the Opponents of Equality truly want to avoid a nightmare scenario of national “legal chaos,” then it is their turn to give a little.

I think it would be sportsman-like and morally right for the Opponents of Equality to end their war against their neighbors and friends by taking the $10 million earmarked for divisive hate politics and contribute it towards healing the sick or feeding the poor. Or perhaps they could focus on the parental notification initiative that might bring a surprising number of allies from the lesbian and gay community.

Governor, please tell the Opponents of Equality – and your Republican colleagues – that fighting against the law of the land, and against California’s families, is unacceptable. Please ask them to end their support of the Constitutional Amendment to Limit Marriage.

Sincerely,

Today’s letter – the end of tyranny

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

The Opponents of Equality claim that the Supreme Court doesn’t have the authority to interpret the Constitution because “it should be the people who decide.” But then they advocate a measure to change the Constitution! One cannot have it both ways.

Either our Constitution means something and our highest court can interpret it, or our Constitution means nothing, in which case there is no need to change it.

I can understand how some people might stand up and oppose equality for whatever reason; I cannot understand how they can oppose equality, oppose the rule of law, and oppose their neighbor’s freedom and still call themselves American.

Proudly,

Today’s letter – you have been terminated!

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

Today was a great day. The State Supreme Court overruled you to say that same-sex couples must be given the “respect and dignity” of marriage because the constitutional protections for race and gender also apply to sexual orientation.

The Los Angeles Times quoted me saying “I think this is the beginning of the end of ostracism, bullying, and all the things that used to make people feel less human than others.”

The Los Angeles Times also quoted you – in the paragraph after me, ha ha – saying that you “will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling.” Thank you for that. Thank you thank you thank you. But it is a little late for you to be surrendering your authority over my relationships, after that authority was removed.

Because of the Domestic Partnership legislation that you signed and the Federal “Defense of Marriage Act,” my family is honestly not directly affected by this decision at a legal level. But people don’t get married for the rights: they get married for the social acceptance. This decision – and your support of it – sends the clear message that ALL California couples are welcome to commit to marriage and fully participate in our economy and our society.

The real victory is not for us, it is for every struggling teen who thinks they are different, by bringing them the comfort that there is a way to live their life without celibacy or suicide, and their government – and Governor – will support them.

Today was a great day because the State Supreme Court said “freedom means freedom for EVERYBODY,” and my Governor will (finally) fight to make sure that happens.

No longer Yours,

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,