Last November, a simple
majority of California voters passed Proposition 8 and
supported stripping away our fundamental right to marry. As if
this isn't heartbreaking enough, if Prop. 8 is allowed to
stand, the damage will extend far beyond the issue of marriage
and Prop. 8 will prove to be a great deal more insidious than
most voters ever realized.
By passing Prop. 8,
California voters did not just vote to eliminate marriage
equality. They also voted to drastically and radically alter
our state constitution, changing its very purpose and, in the
process, putting every fundamental right won by the LGBT
community at risk.
constitution was created to ensure equal protection and
empowerment under the law for all people. Prop. 8 marks the
first time a constitutional amendment will have been used to
take away an existing fundamental right (in this case,
marriage) from one particular group (LGBT community members).
In doing so, Prop. 8 destroys the fundamental principle of
equal protection under the law -- a principle codified in our
constitution and intended to protect minority groups from the
oppression of the majority.
If allowed to stand,
Prop. 8 sets a dangerous precedent, permitting the majority to
take away any fundamental right from any group. Without the
right to equal protection, all minority groups are at risk of
facing discrimination at the ballot box. Though this reality
affects all of us, the current campaigns already under way
against LGBT families place us at immediate risk.
Equality California, started just over 10 years ago. And in
that short time, we have helped move California to the
forefront of LGBT rights. Lobbying our state's elected
officials, we've sponsored and passed laws that prevent
discrimination in schools, ensure equal and fair treatment for
LGBT adoptive parents, and secure inheritance rights for
same-sex partners. We've won housing and employment
protections for the transgender community, and we helped make
California the first state in the nation to establish a
We've made a great deal
of progress these past few years, but Prop. 8 put all of that
progress at risk. If the voters are allowed to take away our
fundamental right to marry, nothing can stop them from taking
away our right to adopt our children. Nothing can stop them
from deciding that housing discrimination or employment
discrimination should be allowed. The law and our constitution
would stand powerless in the face of the voters. Losing the
right to marry could be just the beginning. We could very
realistically lose our homes, our jobs, even our children.
But there is hope. We
are working in the courts and throughout the state to
make certain that Prop. 8 is overturned and that
California is a welcoming place for LGBT people.
In the courts, Equality
California has sued on behalf of our members to overturn Prop.
8. And on March 5, our team of attorneys, led by the National
Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the American Civil
Liberties Union, will argue our case in front of the supreme
court of California. We will rightly argue that Prop. 8 usurps
the guarantee of equal protection and bypasses our legal
safeguards. Specifically, fundamental changes to the
constitution (called revisions) must begin in the state
legislature, where a full two thirds of both the state senate
and state assembly must also support the revision.
Luckily, we do not
stand alone in this fight. More than 300 leading civil rights
organizations, legal scholars, and faith leaders have already
submitted amicus briefs to the court indicating their support
of our argument, including the NAACP, the Mexican American
Legal Defense Fund, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center,
and the California Council of Churches. The state assembly and
state senate both passed resolutions stating their belief that
Prop. 8 is an invalid revision to the constitution.
But victory in the
court is far from certain, and no matter the outcome, the work
to achieve acceptance and understanding must continue. Prop. 8
showed clearly that there are still significant numbers of
Californians who do not support our rights and freedoms. From a
post-election survey conducted by pollster David Binder, we
learned that the single most important factor in convincing
California voters to support the freedom to marry is a
To help us win the
hearts and minds of Californians, the Equality California
Institute, along with coalition partners, recently launched the
"I Do" public education campaign as part of the Let
California Ring project. The "I Do" campaign provides
tools to help supporters of LGBT rights get these critical
conversations started. We are also selling merchandise to build
public awareness on the freedom to marry. To help our coalition
partners grow and strengthen, all proceeds from the merchandise
will go directly to their efforts.
Ten years ago, even the
most optimistic of people may not have predicted our movement
would have made such great strides in such a short amount of
time. We should be proud of our accomplishments, but we still
have a great deal of work to do. Each one of us must continue
to do our part so that we win in the court of public opinion.
Prop. 8 showed how much work there is left to be done, and
invalidating that discriminatory, unconstitutional amendment is
just the beginning.
Last year the supreme
court of California did what is just and extended the right to
marry for same-sex couples. This year, they must do what is
right again and overturn Prop. 8. Regardless of their ultimate
decision, we must all do our part. We must start the
conversation and we must continue the fight until all LGBT
people across California and the world realize full and total
We can win. And we