No on Prop. 8 Campaign Reaches Out to Black Voters

By Anne Stockwell

Originally published on Advocate.com October 22 2008 11:00 PM ET

Five
African-American leaders came together in Los Angeles on
Tuesday to speak out against antigay Proposition 8,
reminding reporters that it’s old-school to
assume that the black community is more homophobic than
others.

"People tend to
look at the black community the way they look at any
community -- they make a sort of sweeping brushstroke of who
we are and what we are," said Doug Spearman, star of
the TV series Noah’s Arc and a board member of
Equality California. "We're standing here.… We
are as different as individuals can be. The point is,
we've all come together in a common cause to do
something. Whatever political party you support, it’s
about doing the right thing."

The conference
was held at the Lucy Florence Cultural Center in
L.A.’s Leimert Park -- despite the fact that
the Yes on 8 campaign had conveniently called a
conference starting at exactly the same time. "They
always do this," muttered one organizer, pacing and
checking his watch. But soon enough the people showed, the
cameras rolled, and the speeches began.

The Reverend Eric Lee, president, Southern
Christian Leadership Council of Los Angeles

The Southern
Christian Leadership Council is the only organization that
was founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, and the entire core
of SCLS is about fighting for justice for all people
and against discrimination. As a result of that, this
issue of marriage equality requires that I speak out
against this proposition, because anytime any group of
people are denied the rights that are afforded to
another group of people, it is an issue of a violation
of civil rights, and we need to be clear about that.

The
disappointment is that there is an attempt for people to
impose a narrow theological view on relationships upon
everybody in every situation. And no one has the right
to do that. And for that reason I, along with the
SCLC…stand by your side, and we will stand with you
until justice is rendered, until you are ensured that
your rights will never be denied by any group of
people for any discriminatory reason. God bless you,
and I am with you.

 The Reverend Vanessa Mackenzie, Church of the Advent X390 (PUBLICITY) | ADVOCATE.COM

Art Cribbs, pastor, San Marino Congregational
Church of Christ (San Marino, Calif.)

Just
demographically, I am straight, I am married, I am a father
of four children -- three girls and a son
-- and I oppose Proposition 8 for all of those
reasons. If I simply based my decision on TV commercials
I would be for Prop. 8, but those commercials lie. The info
that’s being presented on TV, even from a law
professor at Pepperdine University, are all based on
lies and not facts. First of all, this is not about children
and protecting children. The language in Proposition 8 that
is put on the ballot has to do with marriage of a man
and a woman.

I'm opposed to
Proposition 8 because it puts discriminatory language in
the California constitution. Although we have discriminated
against persons because they were Chinese, Japanese,
or Latino, we have not put discriminatory language in
the state constitution.

I personally
oppose Proposition 8 because I know what it feels like to
have someone else tell me who I should be married to. I know
the pain of that. I know the suffering that comes with
that, and I do not believe it is right for a third
party, detached and not involved, dictating who should
love whom and how that relationship should be formed.

Finally,
theologically, my faith tells me to treat people the way I
want to be treated, to do no harm to anyone. And I
have heard people say, "I am hurt by the language of
discrimination that is being proposed for the
California state constitution." If I don't want to feel
pain, I am obligated not to impose pain on someone
else.

The Reverend Vanessa Mackenzie, Church of the
Advent (Mid City district, Los Angeles)

I am an Episcopal
priest, and so I come to lend my voice and my heart and
my body to this question of justice. As you know, in South
Africa we had a constitution that began with the words
"In humble submission to almighty God," and they had
all these laws treating black people as subhuman and
degrading them and taking away their God-given image. All of
us are created in the image of God, and we reflect that
image. I moved to this country eight years ago, and I
am horrified that now they want to put in the
constitution that it is right to discriminate. I think
it’s important to understand that in the
struggle for justice we must be consistent.

One of the
important things for me is that God made us for
relationships. And in relationships, there are the
gifts of grace, of love, of patience, of kindness, of
gentleness, of perseverance, and no group has a monopoly
on that. It’s a God-given gift and it’s a
God-given right, and so I lift my voice.

Willie Pelote, assistant director of political
action, American Federation of State, County, and
Municipal Employees International

We represent
about 175,000 workers in the state of California, both in
the public and the private sector. I work with the people
behind Proposition 8, and when they come into the
legislature they talk about being "family first," but
when you look at their policies -- not to increase the
taxes to provide health care is the same as trying to
deny gays and lesbians in Prop. 8. Not to come forward to
make sure children of [temporary financial assistance
program] CalWorks have child care is the same thing
they're trying to deny gays and lesbians in Prop. 8.
My union was the first one to [back] a bill to make sure in
[the San Francisco Bay area's] San Mateo County that
domestic partners would have survivor benefits.
Proposition 8 would take that away.

 Doug Spearman, actor, Equality California board member, cochair of the No on 8 finance committee X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM

Doug Spearman, actor, Equality California board
member, cochair of the No on 8 finance committee

We have already
won the right in California for same-sex couples to be
married. What this ballot measure wants to do is to take
away that civil right that we have fought and spent
money and raised voices and changed hearts and minds
in order to win. My friends made those arguments in
front of the state supreme court. My coworkers, my
neighbors, my churchgoing family raised money and
awareness to make this a reality.

What we have to
do is be vigilant and protect that right. We have to be
constantly awake and aware and fight for something that the
state constitution is built to protect -- and they
want to dismantle it in order to take something away
from us. When the supreme court authored their
opinion, they effectively wiped away not just
discrimination for gays and lesbians but they wiped
away discrimination in the state of California in a
way that it’s never been addressed before. They did a
brave and beautiful thing, making our lives safe,
accountable, worthy, important in the state. We held
up a light in California that shines for the entire
nation: of truth, honor, dignity, and self-respect that
every other state has a responsibility to turn toward
or turn away from.

There are people
here in the state that want to take away the right for
Californians to marry. This is a civil right, and
it’s the beginning: What other right are they
going to take away? Is there a woman in this room who
wants to give up the right to vote? If we let them pass
Prop. 8, it’s the beginning -- it’s not
the end. Slowly but surely you will see your lives
constrict. This is where the battle is. This is where we
stand and fight. This is where we say, “We have
won the right to be here. We pay our taxes. We send
our children to school. We are good neighbors, good
Californians. We're union members, truck drivers, doctors,
and lawyers. We are the people that serve your food.
We take care of your children, we take care of your
elderly. And you want to deny us the right to be who
we are while we do all of that.”

The lines are
very clearly drawn. If you let them take this, they will
take more.