Contribute Now to Once In A Lifetime Appeal

by Harry Turner

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Dear Family and Friends:

I titled this page "Once in a Lifetime Appeal" for several reasons. For one, I generally don't send out communications or solicitations concerning politics. The defeat of Proposition 8 on the California ballot in November is so important, however, that I've had to put aside my reluctance to advocate about political matters.


Second, Prop. 8 has made it such that I've never personally had so much at stake in an election. The ballot description for Proposition 8 makes it perfectly clear. Prop. 8 "eliminates the right of same sex couples to marry."


As many of you know, Brian and I were married in August and it is far from settled that our marriage will continue to be valid if Prop. 8 passes in November. Of course, our relationship will be as strong as ever, regardless of the outcome of the election, and we’ll continue to raise our son Gabriel with complete devotion and boundless love -- in the same way that children are raised by so many others, whether straight, gay, coupled or single. The difference will be that our relationship will not have the same legal standing as other similar relationships in California and our son will undoubtedly wonder why and have to come to terms with the fact that his parents are not afforded the same rights and status as the parents of other children.


To be more specific, domestic partnerships are not the same as marriage. Domestic partnerships are simply legal documents. In its decision permitting same sex marriages, the California Supreme Court determined there were at least nine legal differences between domestic partners and marriages. To name a few, domestic partners are required to live together. Married people are not. You can have a confidential marriage but not a confidential domestic partnership. And certain benefits, if they're controlled by ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act), are not available to domestic partners, where they are available to married people. More important and as stated by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, marriage (unlike domestic partnerships) is not just a bundle of rights, but is a relationship uniquely honored by the state and society. Confining same-sex couples to a different category marks them with "second-class citizenship," the Chief Justice said.


This appeal is also unique because it is not clear when or if we will pass this way again. If ratified, Prop. 8 will amend the California constitution. In one fell swoop, the reduced status of same sex couples will be enshrined in the state's supreme legal charter and for the first time in the history of the United States, a constitution will be amended to revoke rights that are currently afforded. That's right. The California Supreme Court has determined that the right to marriage is fundamental to everyone in California and the state has no compelling interest in excluding same sex couples from civil marriages. That is the current law and the reason Brian and I, and 11,000+ other couples, were able to marry. Prop. 8 will effectively undue the Court's interpretation of the Constitution and revoke the right of same sex couples to marry.


There is so much to say about this issue and I don’t want to take an undue amount of your time. Please simply consider the following points:

1) The decision of the CA Supreme Court did not diminish marriage or the rights of heterosexual couples in any way. The Court only determined that the state must permit same sex couples to participate in marriage as well because the activity is fundamental to our rights as human beings.


2) Recognizing same sex marriages STRENGTHENS the institution. You do not strengthen marriage by exclusion. Those who argue that marriage is weakened somehow by the inclusion of same sex couples should perhaps devote their efforts to the passage of a constitutional amendment banning divorce.


3) No church is required to recognize, legitimize or otherwise sanctify same sex marriages. This is ONLY an issue of civil law and the requirement that the state government recognize the right of same sex couples to marry. Just as a church can exclude women from the priesthood and is not required to perform a marriage ceremony for individuals outside the faith of that church, so too churches may elect to recognize only heterosexual marriages. On a related note, advocates of Prop. 8 have claimed that defeat of the measure will lead to the loss of churches’ tax exempt status – there is not a shred of evidence to support this prediction.


4) Similarly, no person is required to personally accept or “tolerate” same sex marriage or teach his/her children that homosexuality isn't "sinful" or “wrong” or whatever adjective you like. Just as everyone is free to have racist or sexist beliefs, individuals will continue to be free to believe what they like about homosexuality and they can freely pass these beliefs onto their children. The issue here is whether one group may impose its religious beliefs on the activities of the civil government and consequently the rest of society, particularly where those religious beliefs limit the rights of another group.


5) The advocates of Prop. 8 have argued that schools will be required to teach children about same sex marriage. This is a patent falsehood; the claim is based on an exaggeration of the provisions of the CA Education Code, Section 51890. This statute only requires that schools provide "comprehensive health education" including information about the legal and financial responsibilities of marriage. Please read it for yourself. The statute can be found at http://leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=51001-52000&file=51890-51891.


6) According to the 10/15/08 SF Chronicle, more than 40% of the funds contributed to pass Prop. 8 and massive outreach efforts have come from members of the Mormon Church, particularly those who live outside the state. I will note only that the Mormon Church supports Prop. 8 on the grounds of “morality” and yet this same church excluded blacks from the priesthood until 1978 and taught followers that blacks were “cursed” for nearly 150 years.


You may continue to disagree with me about the preservation of this right for same sex couples. You may even think that gays and lesbians are flawed in some way. You may also believe that the families of same sex couples do not deserve the same status as other families, despite the love they share, the commitments they have made, and the benefits these families yield for the greater community. Please don’t feel compelled to apologize or explain your position, although you should know that I am always willing and ready to discuss these matters with you. I respect your right to hold those beliefs and I appreciate your willingness to hear some of what I have to say.


If, on the other hand, you agree with me that it is critical to preserve the right of same sex couples to marry, I would like to make two simple requests:


1) No On Prop 8, Equality For All is the coalition leading the fight to defeat Prop 8 and defend the fundamental right to marry for all Californians. Whether you live in CA or not, help me help them by contributing to my fundraising page today. Brian and I have already personally contributed more than $2,000.00 to this effort. If you've already contributed through another avenue -- thank you.


2) If you live in CA, please be sure to vote No on 8 and encourage those in your circles to do the same.


Thank you for listening. And I encourage you to forward the link for this page to others who might help.


All the best, Harry



Equality for All