Letter to The Los Angeles Times – California needs and wants AB 43

Dear Los Angeles Times –

I’m getting tired of hearing the Governor use a seven-year old referendum about foreign marriage to justify a modern-day apartheid.

The polls put marriage one point ahead of banning it (46% to 45%) about double George W. Bush’s approval. AB 43 passed the Senate with three more votes than last time through – legislators don’t vote this way without their constituents’ support. And Proposition 22 wasn’t even about marriage in California! “Two persons” language was changed to carve out same-sex couples from marriage by the legislature in 1977 and signed by current-Attorney General-then-Governor Jerry Brown. What the legislature broke, the legislature can fix – it has nothing to do with 22.

LGBT families have worked hard to tell the truth about themselves and their community. They deserve better than a Governor that uses lies about Proposition 22 to unilaterally legislate who they can love and who they can marry.

P.S. I have written a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger every day since July 12; I post them online at http://signab43.blogspot.com and read them on YouTube.

Today’s letter – back to basics

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

I was lucky enough to find somebody that I love, who loves me back. We have been together ten years, two months and twenty-one days, and our two kids are celebrating their first half-birthday today.

We want to get married just like you and Maria, and everybody else. The people, the legislature and our church all support our choice – why don’t you?

Please sign AB 43 and end the special exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage in California.

Sincerely,

Today’s letter – Since 2005, a lot has changed

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

A lot has changed since 2005, when you vetoed AB 849 saying that you want the people to decide who can access marriage in California.

  • More than 9,000 marriages have taken place in Massachusetts (and rather than the sky falling down, they won the World Series.)
  • A Republican-controlled congress failed a second attempt to amend the Constitution (and lost control of congress.)
  • California elected a new Assembly (and every member who voted for AB 849 was re-elected plus one.)
  • The parade of states passing DOMA amendments ground to a halt when Arizona voters rejected a ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage.
  • More Californians support gay marriage (48%) than oppose it (46%). (That means gay marriage has double the support of President Bush (24%).)

Clearly, the people are increasingly supportive of the freedom to marry, and the excuses for opposing it are running out. The moment you leave office gay couples in California will be able to choose marriage just like everybody else. As a lame-duck Governor who needs to weigh his legacy against his political aspirations, do you want to be on the side of freedom, or support the opponents of equality?

Please sign AB 43, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, this year so my family can choose the security and simplicity of marriage just like yours. The people have evolved – have you?

Moving forward,

Today’s letter – whatever it takes

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

I see from today’s paper that you are teaming up with the Democrats and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez in order to “do whatever it takes” to overhaul our healthcare system.

I wish you would “do whatever it takes” to bring the freedom to marry to all Californians.

Like healthcare, freedom to marry will allow universal access to important services inside of a secure, time-tested framework that everybody understands. Unlike healthcare, nobody is being forced to get married or even perform the ceremonies, and California taxpayers will actually save $24 million a year. It provides personal choice and freedom to Californians at a bargain price – something worth fighting for.

“Whatever it takes” includes signing AB 43, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act. The legislature was clever enough to design it so it wouldn’t conflict with Proposition 22, and now that “universal access” is in your vocabulary, signing it isn’t even politically risky: it’s just the least you can do.

So please consider signing AB 43 and bringing to California’s same-sex couples the same freedom to marry that you have.

Sincerely,

Today’s letter – we need it either way

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

When you vetoed AB 849, the 2005 version of the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, you concluded “If the ban of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, this bill is not necessary. If the ban is constitutional, this bill is ineffective.”

With AB 43, the exact opposite is true. If the ban on same-sex couples from marriage is found to be unconstitutional, a bill like AB 43 would be necessary for marriages to commence. If the special ban is constitutional, this bill would be effective at changing a different part of the Family Code than the one currently being examined by the court.

The people will ultimately decide, and AB 43 is the prescription for doing that: a necessary and effective law that would end the ban preventing religious institutions from freely practicing their beliefs and stop the special exclusion of same-sex couples from choosing marriage. I wish you would sign this prescription for the health, safety and security of all California’s families.

Sincerely,

Letter to First Lady Maria Shriver – help us get the freedom to marry

Dear Maria Shriver –

Like you, I am a busy Californian. I see no less than eleven worthy projects on your Web site. I was wondering if you could join me in just one more: bringing the freedom to marry to all Californians?

The California Legislature changed the law to exclude lesbian and gay families in 1977, and Governor Jerry Brown signed it. Since then these families have struggled against the stigma that law has put on them, and have overcoming with such milestones as the domestic partnership legislation that your husband brought into law.

Domestic Partnership doesn’t provide the same security of marriage, though, which is why I believe that California would be better for kids and parents if these couples can get married just like everybody else.

Here is where you can help. I have written to your husband every day since July 12 to ask him to sign AB 43, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act. This simple bill reverses the law that Jerry Brown signed without touching the Proposition 22 language, and it gives the many Churches that believe same-sex couples deserve marriage the freedom to perform the ceremony. Although I have written many times, I have only received two form letters in reply. I’m pretty sure that messages from me and people like me are not making their way to the Governor.

I have enclosed a couple of my favorite letters, but they are all posted on my Web site, http://signab43.blogspot.com. Could you please talk to your husband about this and ask him to read some of my letters as he considers his actions on AB 43?

Many thanks,

Evolving Talking Points

  • Governor Schwarzenegger does not hate gay people. He knows many as an actor, from Merv Griffin to Rosie O’Donnell. He has signed almost every lesbian and gay rights law he has received. He signed our very effective Domestic Partnership legislation. His Chief of Staff is a Lesbian.
  • It is unknown why he stops short on legal marriage. Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed a nearly identical bill in 2005. The reasons he has given range from weak to dismissable (lacks authority to override Proposition 22, wants the people to decide).
  • The legislature changed the California Family Code section 300 from “two persons” to “man and woman” in 1977. The change was signed by Governor Jerry Brown. Schwarzenegger says he lacks the authority to sign AB 43, but it is the same authority as Jerry Brown had in 1977. The legislature changes their laws all the time. Governor Schwarzenegger might be sued, but better him than me.
  • The people passed Proposition 22 in 2000 adding a section to the part of the California Family Code that deals with marriages performed in other places. Section 308 says California has to honor marriages performed elsewhere, and the new section, 308.5, limits that to heterosexual marriages performed elsewhere. It is a state rights issue. AB 43 does not change 308 or 308.5. The courts will need to sort that out but in the meantime we will have gay marriage and the will of the legislature will be on record.
  • We need AB 43 for several strategic reasons:
    • if the Supreme court decides in October that Californians deserve gay marriage, we will still need AB 43 to provide it.
    • a pro-marriage law will drive the courts towards legal marriage.
    • a pro-marriage law will drive the people towards legal marriage.
    • an anti-gay ballot initiative becomes one that removes freedoms rather than one that just reinforces existing law (unnecessary, benign).
  • Churches that do not believe in same-sex marriage (or any other kind of marriage) will not have to perform any ceremony. More importantly, churches that DO believe in same-sex marriage will finally be able to perform them (United Church of Christ, Metropolitan Community Church.)
  • Same-sex marriages and registered partnerships (Domestic Partnerships, civil unions) are not the same. Although registered partnerships give same-sex couples most of the benefits and protections of civil marriage, the couples are not legally married. Registered partnerships create two sets of laws that are expensive to administer, and they deprive California citizens of their dignity. Nobody grows up dreaming of getting ‘domestic partnered.’

What is AB 43?

AB 43, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, is a bill that would bring us one step closer to ending the special exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage in California and providing freedom to churches who wish to perform the ceremonies.

The bill restores Sections 300 and 302 of the California Family Code to their pre-1977 language without touching Section 308.5 blocking foreign marriages that was installed by Proposition 22.

AB 43 is supported by more than 250 civil rights and professional groups, 46 of our 80 Assembly members and 22 of our 37 Senators.

The bill is on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk. He must sign or veto the bill before October 14, or it will pass into law on its own. If the bill becomes law, there will probably be an injunction pending the outcome of the marriage cases before the State Supreme Court.

He has vetoed a similar bill, AB 849, and has promised to veto this one too. His arguments have not changed: (1) the people voted for discrimination through Proposition 22 in 2000 and he cannot overturn the will of the people (2) the judiciary and the people need to work this out without the legislature (3) the bill is ineffective because of the pending cases in the Supreme Court.

I don’t believe these arguments hold up. Proposition 22 was about states rights and did nothing to change gay marriage in California. It was seven years ago and does not reflect the will of the voters that set up our Constitution and twice elected the legislature that passed AB 43. Finally, the bill may be ineffective at changing the law, however a signature will send a powerfully effective message about fairness.

The Governor has to know that his excuses are pretty lame. I guess he thinks a veto will win favor with his most active donors and the current crop of gay-haters in Washington, and by distracting people with Proposition 22 and “the will of the people” he can avoid doing what is right for the people in favor of what is right for himself.

It is embarrassing to have California come just a penstroke away from providing all their couples with the same rights. Overcoming prejudice was in California’s history, but now that mantle belongs to Massachusetts, Canada and Spain. It is horrible to have a Republican advocate higher taxes and additional government interference with individual lives. It is demeaning to have one person messing around with my family’s legal status to suit his political agenda.

I hope that I can change Governor Schwarzenegger’s mind, but even if I can only touch the minds and hearts of people who read my letters, I will have accomplished my goal.