Thursday, November 6, 2008

On the passing of Prop 8

Guest author: my business partner YY Goka-Lee and her wife, Kate

An Open Letter to Our Friends and Family about Marriage and Prop 8 -- from YY and Kate

We want to send our heartfelt thanks to everyone who voted NO on Proposition 8 in California, who worked on that campaign, who made donations, who talked with your friends and family, who sent emails and reached out to your networks, and who hoped and prayed for a compassionate and just outcome to this incredibly hateful and unfair campaign.

Proposition 8, which aims to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage, has passed in California.

We are jubilant about the election of Barack Obama, and the renewed hope that gives us for the health of our country, our citizens, our economy, and our role in the global community. But at the same time, we have found ourselves unable to really celebrate after the outcome of yesterday's election.

This election season with Proposition 8 has felt so personal for us. During these months, we heard public "debates" which put the existence of our marriage and family on the same spectrum as illegal and abusive activities such as incest. We confronted the cold fact that our fellow citizens across this country have given tens of millions of dollars to deny recognition and legal protections for our family, for no reason that we can fathom. We have read how people believe that our happy family somehow harms them and their family. We saw fear and lies perpetuated in the name of God and religion, in order to justify writing discrimination specifically targeted against us into our state's constitution.

We have been somewhat quiet about this issue throughout the campaign, because we knew we would be preaching to the choir with our friends. But also because it was hard to face the fact that these hateful ideas were being given the real weight of consideration, and even needed to be rebutted... that now they have actually been affirmed by half of the voters in California... and that it may be actually written not only into law -- but into our constitution. Here are some of the things we wish to say to the people behind this vicious campaign:

- Our marriage has no effect whatsoever on anyone's religion. We would challenge you to find one Orthodox Rabbi who was forced to perform an interfaith marriage, or one Catholic Priest who was forced to marry a previously divorced person -- these non-religious marriages are perfectly legal, and no sane person would support banning all marriages that are outside these types of narrow religious definitions. So why target one group of people to ban from marriage, because they fall outside of some subset of religious definitions?

- What you have done is to single-out a group of people to have a basic right ripped from them, by a vote of their fellow citizens. This ugly and un-American proposition flies in the face of our own U.S. Constitution which says that "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States."

- The Prop 8 organizers have lied shamefully to score their hollow victory. They are willing to do this in the name of religion and children, with their God watching them. Shame on you. If the existence of our family somehow threatens your marriage... We wonder about the strength and sincerity of your marriage, not ours.

Fifty years ago, if states had been allowed to hold a popular vote to institutionalize racial segregation or Jim Crow laws, these horrible ideas would also have easily been adopted in many many states. It is unthinkable that that would have be justified in any way. But in fact, that is exactly what has happened here with Proposition 8.

This entire campaign, and now it's winning vote, has made it a socially-acceptable matter of personal opinion whether to hold gays and lesbians and our families as second-class citizens. It says "You and your family are inferior to mine. You do not deserve the same rights, dignity and protection as mine does." And after this ugly campaign, that attitude is now credentialed as the winning side of a reasonable public debate. Giving credibility to these types of views makes it more likely that workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians will be tolerated as "just a difference of personal opinion", that our children will be harassed because some parents "have the right" to teach their kids that our family is inferior to theirs (after all... it's in the constitution), and frighteningly leads to real increases in anti-gay violence.

Because we feared that this proposition would pass, we did get re-married in San Francisco City Hall last Tuesday (one week before the election). It was a joyful occasion to be able to share this ceremony with our 3 beautiful and beloved children. But it was honestly also tinged with mixed feelings... because we are ALREADY married, and have been for over four years. It was fun. But none of our straight friends have had get married multiple times under legal duress, simply to be a married couple.

We are at this moment legally married in California. But one of the first things that we heard at the end of election night, was a Prop 8 campaign organizer announcing that they were now moving onto their "next big priority, which is to annul all the same-sex marriages that took place between June and November". It is depressing to be targeted by anonymous hatred over something as important and personal as our marriage.

If our marriage is not recognized, it has real practical effects on our ability to protect our family and our children's future. We will need put in place many expensive, separate legal documents which give us only a fraction of the rights and protections that every family has. But that is not the main reason we got married. We got married because we believe deeply in the institution of marriage. We will join in the fight to ensure our marriage remains legally valid. We know that significant progress is being made against bigotry and discrimination. We know that equal civil rights will be eventually be extended to gay and lesbian Americans and our families, just like it is to every other American. We ask you to understand and advocate the importance of this issue, not just in terms of marriage, but for what it really is about -- discrimination, civil rights and true equality for ALL Americans, including us and our children. We cannot put this behind us simply as a lost proposition battle about the unpopular idea of gay marriage.

What happened in this broader election across the country will ultimately lift us to a fairer future. With President-elect Obama, it is more clear than ever that Americans are capable of transcending mistakes and bigotry of our past. We ask you to join us to actively work to overturn Prop 8 -- but more importantly, the basic mindset of discrimination in which it is rooted.

With deep appreciation of your love and friendship,

-YY and Kate Goka-Lee

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