Today’s letter – Silently tolerating nonsense

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

I like you because you’re a non-nonsense kind of guy. You drive a hummer and smoke cigars regardless of what people say. And just as effectively as you enjoy your own freedoms, you usually defend those of Californians. I would have even voted for you – except for one strange thing: you consistently and mysteriously block same-sex couples from having the freedom to marry.

There were many occasions when you could have stepped up and said something in support of this freedom. Way back when Proposition 22 was just a gleam in Pete Knight’s eye, you could have said “people should be able to do what they want” in the context of gay marriage instead of gay sex. When I was married in San Francisco in 2004 you could have said “we ought to change things so these people can get married legally” instead of just smacking down with the law. When the people and legislature asked you to sign AB 849 in 2005 and AB 43 in 2007, you could have said “I regret having to veto the bill.” Instead you gleefully sent it – and my freedom – back to ground zero.

Thousands of same-sex couples are just trying to make the same commitment of marriage you and Maria were free to make. Why do you tolerate the nonsense of domestic apartheid? Why do you stand silent while freedoms are being trampled?

I really expected more from you.

Yours,

Today’s letter – This joy remains tinged with sadness

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

Next week, three generations of our family will gather around the dinner table: us, our newborn twins, and all four of our parents. It is amazing to watch our parents glow in the pride of their grandchildren – the first on both sides of the family.

Yet, this joy remains tinged with sadness. Unlike our parents, my fiancée and I are blocked from marriage. I am upset at being excluded from the time-tested security the law provides married couples, but what really makes me sad is that it deprives our parents of the hope of seeing their children’s wedding. All of the gratitude, joy and unqualified support that will be in that room that day are not going to create a world where we are free to marry.

We will be the only unwed couple at the table – the ones who had our kids out of wedlock – and until we can wed, we will always be thinking there is a small sense of shame when we – despite all our hard work – are grouped with Anna Nicole and Larry Birkhead as our parents shake their heads and cluck their tongues about the fallout from their unwed escapades.

I have been finding ways to convert the shame into anger, and I was surprised at how easy it is: we simply blame the fact that we are treated as less than equal, less perfect and less human than other couples directly on you, Governor.

You could have signed AB 849 in 2005; you could have signed AB 43 this past October; you could have said that you think all Californians should have the same freedom to marry. But you did none of those things.

It will take a lot more than you to spoil our Thanksgiving, but I don’t think I’m being greedy to say that I wish your support could have been one more thing for which to be thankful, rather than one more thing over which to shake our heads and cluck our tongues.

Yours,

Today’s letter – “yours”

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

You might be wondering why I sign my letters “Yours.”

You asked the Attorney General to annul my marriage in 2004. You blocked my freedom to choose marriage when you vetoed AB 849 two years ago and AB 43 last month. You refuse to stand with me in support of freedom and equality, and you insist that I endure as a second-class citizen until a seven-year-old referendum winds its way through the courts.

You control my family’s ability to access the security and stability that marriage provides, and you keep meddling with my human rights by doing things to me that you wouldn’t do to Britney Spears. You treat me like I am, actually,

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 Last Thing We Need

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

You have argued that AB 43, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, is unnecessary.

What was unnecessary was asking the Attorney General to invalidate my marriage in 2004; vetoing the first Freedom to Marry bill in 2005; vowing to veto AB 43 before the Senate had even voted it; and using a seven-year-old law about states rights as an excuse for allowing discrimination on your watch.

What is most unnecessary of all, though, is a ban that keeps people from getting married and churches from marrying them.

Please sign AB 43 and get rid of the unnecessary and offensive ban on freedom that the legislature installed in 1977 and that you have perpetuated throughout your rule.

A veto – and the divisive hatred that it emboldens – is the last thing we need.

Yours,

Today’s letter – Hate is shrinking your base

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

As a voter of conscience, I don’t understand how anybody could pop a chad for a Republican. Last night’s slap at people of color piggybacked months of campaigns against Hispanic and Latino workers and years of attacks on lesbian and gay families.

Of these offenses, I don’t think any are as pronounced or as harmful to the GOP as their campaign against the freedom to marry. While African-American and LGBT voters are each roughly 7% of the voting population, 91% of LGBT voters cast ballots in the last presidential election. But those are direct votes.

When your party says – in your party platform – that my California Domestic Partner and I shouldn’t be allowed to get married because our genitals make us worse parents than Britney Spears and Kevin Federline, it alienates not only us, but also everybody who has ever met us. Currently, 75% of children are being raised in ‘non-nuclear’ families like ours – the kind you say are incapable of raising kids. 75% of families is a big base to permanently lose.

Just last week, former Republican congressman Jack Kemp told the Washington Post “What are we going to do — meet in a country club in the suburbs one day? If we’re going to be competitive with people of color, we’ve got to ask them for their vote.”

Think you’re above it all? Hardly. In 2004 you successfully lobbied the Attorney General to invalidate my marriage, in 2005 you vetoed AB 849 which would have let us wed, and now you’re on the verge of vetoing AB 43, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act.

All my California Registered Domestic Partner and I want to do is raise our kids with the simplicity and security of marriage. You and your party have worked your hardest to prevent that fairness and freedom. It is something that me, my family, my friends, my coworkers and my church are going to remember when they vote.

Let me once again ask you to give us some options at the polls: please sign AB 43 into law instead of vetoing your party further down the sewer.

Sincerely,

Today’s letter – Big Brother or March for Freedom

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

I would much rather stay home tonight to watch Dustin and Amber lash out at Dick and Daniele on Big Brother 8, but instead I’m going to be down at your star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with hundreds of other people wondering why you insist on blocking civil rights legislation that the people have brought to you for the second time.

AB 43 would let me marry the person that I love, just like everybody else. It would let my Church perform the ceremony. It would save the taxpayers $24 million a year, and it would send the message that California welcomes its diverse residents with dignity and freedom.

All it needs is your signature. Please sign AB 43 so I can watch the new season of Survivor: China without getting a babysitter, and not miss an episode of Ugly Betty to plead for something that anybody with the brains God gave geese knows is the right thing to do.

Sincerely,

Today’s letter – reasons to hope

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger –

I know that you’ll never sign AB 43, the bill that would let my family choose the safety and simplicity of marriage just like everybody else. But there are reasons that I can hope:

On one side, AB 43 was passed handily by a recently-elected legislature. It is supported by every major human rights group, most family professional groups and even a lot of religious groups. We have a new Attorney General who probably has a different opinion of conflicts with Proposition 22. And we have successful gay marriages in many other places.

On the other hand, Proposition 22 is seven years old and the Opponents of Equality haven’t had enough support to bring a new petition initiative to the voters. AB 43’s biggest supporter is the Republican party that most recently lost control of Congress with their “bomb and preach” politics.

You have expressed an interest in moving the GOP out of the morality battle. Here is your second opportunity. I wish you would choose the side of the people and sign AB 43.

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 – 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,