Proposition 8, the California ballot proposition to ban same-sex marriage, was approved by 52.4 (to 47.6) percent of voters on Nov. 4. It overturned the May, 2008 California Supreme Court decision that recognized marriage as a fundamental right for same-sex couples. Since June, 18,000 same-sex marriages have been recorded in the state. Since Nov. 4, tens of thousands of angry LGBT people and their allies have taken to the streets, not just in California, but all over the country.
This is a speech Robin Tyler made in Silverlake Nov. 8, at the largest rally to date, (13,000 people) protesting the passage of Prop 8.
We want marriage. That’s the front of the bus. The Democratic Party wants to give us civil unions. That’s the back of the bus. The Republican Party wants us off the bus.
And the radical religious right, including but not limited to the Mormon, Catholic and Baptist churches, has just thrown us under the bus!
The people who voted “Yes” on Proposition 8 are to Christianity what paint-by-numbers is to art.
There is no such thing as same-sex marriage -- because after marriage, sex is never the same. It was about marriage equality, the right of same-sex couples to marry.
I called our attorney, Gloria Allred, one week before Nov. 4 and asked her to prepare a lawsuit, because if gays and lesbians lost, my wife, Diane Olson, and I wanted to file a suit with the California Supreme Court immediately. We felt that Prop 8 was illegal and that, for the first time in American history, a minority was going to lose rights and be removed from the California constitution, setting a very dangerous precedent. We felt that if we could not retain the right to marry, then heterosexual couples should not be able to be married either.
That is what equality under the law means, and that is what the California Supreme Court ruled in May, that lesbians and gays were a Suspect class entitled to total equal rights under the laws of California. I was convinced that we would have a hard time winning the Proposition 8 fight, not just because of the lies from the 'Yes' side, but because despite raising 40 million dollars, the 'No on 8' campaign was so incredibly weak.
Right up until the last week, (and only because of incredible community pressure did they finally relent and have silent same-sex couples in one television ad). The 'No on 8' campaign was afraid to show lesbian and gay couples in their ads. Their highly paid consultants told them that doing so would insure our loss. The fact is that within 10 days of the first marriages performed this June, after showing hundreds of same-sex marriages in the media and because of the public watching these happy same-sex couples showering California with love, polls shifting from a resounding 'Yes on 8' (52 to 43 percent) to 'No on 8' (53 to 44 percent), a tremendous lead for our side!
Despite this, blaming their consultants and their polling data, 'No on 8' made us invisible, and forty million dollars later, they lost. We all lost.
Look at us, leadership of the 'No on 8' campaign. Our community will never, ever be made invisible again! The only input we were really allowed was to donate money.
You were afraid to use the word bigots to describe people who supported Prop 8 in your ads. Well, the 'Yes on 8' people are bigots.
Until the end, the 'No on 8' campaign wouldn’t even use the term discrimination. So the 'Yes on 8' side jumped you in the ads and hid behind their Christian children and lied and lied. And lied.
Rule Number 1 in political campaigns is: Never let the other side define you! But you did. And you let them ‘swift boat us for a month’ about teaching gay marriage in schools before you finally put out an ad that exposed the lies. But by then, their ads were pounded into the consciousness of people who didn’t know what the issue was about.
And ‘Yes on 8’ defined it as ‘protecting their children’. And you let them. You let them.
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And with regard to African American voters, 70 percent of your community sided with the same kind of bigots who supported slavery, who fought against interracial marriage, who vote to send your people who are addicted to prison instead of rehabilitation centers (and I am clean and sober, so I know prison doesn’t work and their only chance is a program), and who vote to cut off aid to your families, saying that it is a moral issue because 70 percent of your children are born out of wedlock, and therefore, you should be responsible. These are the people whom you sided. You got in bed with your enemies, the very people who have fucked you again and again, in the name of morality and their religious beliefs.
But I want to say that despite my overwhelming sense of betrayal, I am, as is our community, still firmly committed to Equality for African Americans, still firmly committed to continuing our fight against racism. Because, as Dr. Martin Luther King said, “injustice against one is injustice against all.”
The California Supreme court struck down the ban on Interracial marriage in 1948, (Perez v Sharp) and thanks to the landmark Federal Supreme Court ruling in the case of Loving v Virginia, all state miscegenation laws were struck down in 1967.
And yet it wasn’t until 1991, 24 years later, that interracial marriage was supported by a majority of Americans. Had the Caucasian people who supported 'Yes' on Prop 8 been voting on your right to interracial marriage, until 1991, just 17 years ago, you would have lost. And as I sat in the California Supreme Court on March 4, 2008, the bigots, used the same argument against us that they used against you. "It was ‘tradition.” And the justices answered “so was slavery.” And the bigots argued, “God doesn’t want inter-racial marriage which is why he put the races on different continents.” And in 2008, California Supreme Court justices ruled “it is illegal to hide behind religious beliefs in order to justify discrimination.”
That is why we have a court system. That is why the United States constitution says that ‘the rights of a Minority may not be denied by the Majority.’ That is why Proposition 8 is Illegal. This is not just about marriage equality. This is about civil rights, which Dr. King said is for everyone. Bayard Rustin, the great African American leader who was gay, who called for and organized the 1963 March on Washington, D.C., turned over in his grave Nov. 4, 2008.
This is not an issue for only ‘rich white gays.’ Black male same-sex couples in the U.S. are almost twice as likely to be living with a biological child as a white same-sex couple. Black female same-sex couples in the U.S. are just as likely to be living with an adopted or foster child as a black married opposite-sex couple. Many of these African American couples want to get access to marriage so they can provide a more secure future for their children.
And Barack Obama, I voted for you -- even though you said your Christian religion would not allow you to support same-sex marriage. Well, I did not vote for you to be my Christian President. I voted for you to be my President.
You said you were going to be the president of all the people. You even mentioned the word “gay” in your election-night speech. Well, how can you be the president of all of us when LGBT Americans do not have one civil right on a Federal Level?
The Democratic Party has used the gay community for years. It promised us full rights but asked us to wait -- “until the election is over” -- and then gave us nothing, ever, even when Democrats were in total power. President Bill Clinton signed the two most anti-gay pieces of legislation: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” where LGBT people could serve in the military, and die for their country, as long as they didn’t mention their ‘sexual orientation’ and as long as their loving and grieving partners back in the USA did not try to claim benefits when their partner was killed defending the country who does not defend their rights. And Clinton signed DOMA, the "Defense of Marriage Act” where marriage is legal only between one man and one woman. Well, he should have read his own bill.
The gay community’s honeymoon with the Democratic party is over. We get in bed with you and you promise us everything. Then, the morning after the elections, we wake up to find you gone. With Democrats once again in total power in Washington, it is time the party made good on the promises made to our community since the 1970s! Now we are demanding that you make good on them, not one right at a time, but all of them. It has been a one sided engagement for long enough. We are through being screwed.
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The gay community wants total and equal rights with the straight community, including marriage. Offering gays only domestic unions and civil partnerships is separate and not equal. When African Americans had to drink from separate water fountains, it was called segregation. It meant they were not good enough to drink from white water fountains, that somehow, they would ‘taint’ the water, because they were ‘less.’ To ask us to accept only domestic unions and civil partnerships is marriage segregation. It means that you consider our relationships to be less than yours, that somehow we will destroy the ‘sanctity’ of marriage. How has my marriage affected yours?
Fifty percent of heterosexual marriages end in divorce. Eighty percent of people ordered to pay child support, most of them men, do not pay it. Three out of every four children are sexually abused. And speaking of sexual abuse, the Mormons campaigned against us and for limiting marriage to one man and one woman. These are people, who, despite their denials, have not even begun to prosecute the polygamous marriages in which child sexual abuse is rampant. And they call us immoral. They would have done better to use the 20 million dollars they put into 'Yes on 8' toward finding and prosecuting these child abusers. And they call us immoral?
This is not a movement about our lifestyle. It is a movement about our lives.
For years, science called us sick and religion called us sinful. For years, we were subjected to shock therapy and locked up in mental institutions and penal institutions. For years, our families, whom society made to suffer because they said it was our parent’s fault, rejected us. Gay youth have the highest suicide rate in the country and gays have one of the highest drug-addiction rates -- because of the indignities that have been heaped upon us.
No more. No more. Never again. It ends now. Tens of thousands of lesbians and gays are on the streets across this country.
I want to emphasize that we need to follow the non-violent teachings of Dr. King and of Mahatma Gandhi. Some have infiltrated from other groups and want to make our demonstrations violent. Don’t do it. We are better than that. We’re angry, yes. But we’re fighting for the right to love and have our relationships recognized by law and, therefore, must go beyond our anger and refuse to be violent. But stay angry. Power is never given, it has to be taken.
Here is what we are going to do.
(1) We are going to wait for the California Supreme Court to do the right thing and rule that Proposition 8 is invalid. But if it doesn’t, I call on millions of lesbians and gays across this country to take to the streets and vow never to stop protesting until we are full citizens with equal rights. Are you ready to stay on the streets? Yes!
(2) If the California Supreme Court rules against equal marriage rights, we will put an amendment back on the ballot in four years. Only this time, we will not let the incompetent, undemocratic leaders who appointed themselves to head our campaign. It will be a grassroots movement that will start the petition to get the issue back on the ballot. Are you ready to organize? Yes!
(3) And if the Democratic Party and President Barack Obama do not support us by giving us total equal rights this time, then we must withdraw support from them. Are you finally willing to hold the Democratic Party accountable? Yes!
I am 66 years old. In 1978 I called for the very first gay march on Washington. In 2000, I called for the last march on Washington. I produced the main stages of the 1987 and 1993 marches. Marches work, not because Washington listens, but because they mobilize youth and our youth needs to carry on the leadership of this movement. Are you ready to lead? Are you ready for a National March on Washington? Yes!
We must not make this as a fight with the African American community or we will all slide to the bottom. That is what the right wing wants. We need to reach out and to keep educating minority communities. And we need to remember the numerous churches and religious Individuals and the 250 California rabbis who sided with us.
We must finally see ourselves as a civil rights movement and act accordingly.
Kate Millett, the great lesbian feminist author, wrote "we must never forget the nights of our love and the days of fighting for its freedom."
What do we want? Equal Rights! When do we want them? Now!
What do we want? Civil Rights! When do we want them? Now!
Robin Tyler ([email protected]) was the original plaintiff, along with Diane Olson, in Tyler vs. the County of Los Angeles, which gave lesbians and gays the right to marry in California when the state Supreme Court ruled in their favor. On June 16, 2007, they became the first and only gay couple to wed in Los Angeles County on that historic day.