Beverly Senkowski’s speech at CVPPAC

If you were not at the December 13th, Central Valley Progressive Political Action Committee event, you missed the powerful speech given by Beverly Senkowski, President of the Central California Alliance (CCA).  She spoke about Proposition 8, the next steps for the LGBT community and the civil rights movement in general.  But, you can read the speech in full by clicking "Read More".

Good Afternoon,

I want to thank you for the opportunity to be here today. I am honored to have been asked to speak with you. First I would like to give you a bit of background about myself. I graduated from Kent State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I spent over seventeen years working in social services in
Ohio before coming to
California with my spouse Jacqueline. Yes I say spouse, because I am still legally wed to her. We celebrated this August by getting married on our eleven year anniversary. 

I came out in my senior year in high school in
Ohio in 1975. That was a very traumatic year for me. I have never gone to a high school reunion and I never plan on it. My peers were brutal and unfortunately for my generation there was no Gay Straight Alliance to turn to for support.

I went to my first same sex wedding in 1977. It was held at a Unitarian church in
Ohio. This was new and groundbreaking for me to think that a gay person could marry. I always thought it would be denied to me… and after growing up in a family system that valued marriage why did I feel this way? Well because nowhere in my frame of reference did I see or hear that marriage was mine to have just like my heterosexual siblings had…until that day when I saw something so familiar yet so different take place. On that day May 14 1977 I knew something else could happen.

As I watched the movie Milk yesterday I was reminded of the many struggles I faced during those early years and how our community has been scarred. I was reminded of the pain and suffering we have endured for decades. How much the same religious oppression and social discrimination still hurts us today as it did in the days of Stonewall, Anita Bryant’s rampage, the Briggs initiative, Prop 22, DOMA, Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell and now Proposition 8.

As a long time Unitarian Universalist I have worked for justice on many issues. I served as a delegate from
Ohio to their General Membership, or annual conference, in 1984 at Yale University. There I participated in voting on their policy of Welcoming Congregations, which meant that churches that identified as such would not only affirm gays and lesbians as individuals with inherent worth but would actively go into the community and reach out to them and “welcome” them into their church or society. I continue today to work with the UU Legislative Ministry which focuses on many social justices issues such as marriage equality and water justice just to mention a few.

While living in
San Francisco in 2004, I worked with Marriage Equality CA (MECA) when the marriages begin at city hall. I helped escort people from station to station to get married. I remember having them run full speed to Mable Teng’s office to get registered before the court ordered a stay on the marriages. Imagine on your wedding day racing to be legally registered as married because someone doesn’t want you to be and a court might intervene and stop you and steal it right out of your hand. I volunteered, and still support, Equality CA (EQCA) in
San Francisco and Marriage Equality USA here in
Fresno.

In 2004, Jacqueline and I worked on the Executive Committee of the National Marriage Equality Caravan that traveled from
San Francisco to
Washington
DC on a bus in eight days with forty other activists from around the country and one from the
Netherlands. Both of us were featured speakers in Washington
DC
at the Marriage Equality rally on Oct 11, 2004. We traveled across the
US to help to put a human face on this issue.

Funny thing, I never planned on being an activist… but I became one because I refuse to settle for second class status… because I believed in these words by Thomas Jefferson:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…

I became an activist because I believe that “these inalienable rights exist with or without government; man cannot create, take or give them away. It is the right of liberty.”

As the current President of Central California Alliance (CCA), I gave a speech at a rally at
Fresno city hall right before Election Day. I quoted Barack Obama when he said in
Boston in 2004 that “there is no liberal or Conservative
America; there is only the
United States of America”. I added that in my
America there is no straight or gay
America; there is only the
United States of America where all citizens are equal. I truly believe in that statement and I will fight to make it true. I am here today to ask you to join me in this fight.

Ok a quick summary of the marriage movement in CA over the past few years. In 2004 we had the marriages take place in
San Francisco. The authority of the mayor to authorize these marriages was legally challenged and it was found that he did overstepped his authority so the marriages were stopped and the courts invalidated all of the marriages that had occurred.

The fight for equality has been lead by many organizations such as the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) who was the lead counsel along with co-counsels from private agencies such as the Law Office of David C. Codell, Equality California, and Our Family Coalition in the marriage equality case decided favorably by the California Supreme Court on May 15, 2008.

NCLR has been litigating this case for four years, step by step (refer to the handout):

  • In April 2005, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard A. Kramer ruled in favor of the couples, holding that
    California‘s exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage discriminates on the basis of sex and violates the fundamental right to marry.
  • On November 13, 2006, the California Court of Appeal overturned Judge Kramer’s ruling in a 2-1 decision, saying that
    California may continue to bar same-sex couples from marriage.
  • On December 20, 2006, the California Supreme Court unanimously granted review. Oral argument was heard on March 4, 2008.
  • On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court issued a historic decision in In re Marriage Cases which challenged the constitutionality of state laws that discriminate against same-sex couples in marriage.
  • On June 4, 2008, the California Supreme Court also denied all petitions for rehearing of the case, and ordered that its decision from May 15 become final on June 16, 2008 at 5 p.m., clearing the way for same-sex couples to begin applying for marriage licenses and marrying on June 17, 2008.

On May 15th 2008 history was made in California. The California Supreme Court struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage stating on page seven, of a 121 page ruling, that “our state now recognizes that an individual’s capacity to establish a loving an long term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual’s sexual orientation – like a person’s race or gender – does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights. We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same sex couples as well as to opposite couples. “

By a 4-3 vote Prop 22 was found to be unconstitutional. In my opinion, this ruling was one of the most significant legal decisions concerning human rights in the
United States. We rejoiced and celebrated in the Tower district. I was interviewed by the television media and closed the interview by saying “Well I guess I have a wedding to plan!” I was overjoyed that a moment I thought would never come had arrived.

While we were celebrating that evening, ProtectMarriage.com and their allies were marching their army into
San Francisco to challenge the court’s ruling. It was to be a national coalition of forces from the Church of the Latter Day Saints in
Utah, Focus on the Family in
Colorado, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Knights of Columbus to name a few and more locally Fresno’s own Mayor Autry and the Rev. Franklin Cornerstone church.

Our opponents tried to get an injunction to stop the marriages but that was denied. Their goal then became to get the issue on a ballot in Nov. just like Prop 22… and so Proposition 8 was born. In July of 2008 the CA Supreme Court denied a petition to prevent Prop 8 from ever making it to the ballot. The LGBT+ community responded with the “Stop the Initiative” Campaign but as we know it did not stop our opponents. So it was on to Election Day. Unfortunately, Prop 8 passed by a narrow margin of 52% to 48%. I felt as if I had been hit in the head by a brick.

I spoke at a vigil at Wesley church on the Thursday evening following the election. I shared with them that “my heart has been heavy, my mind has been weary. I could not find the spirit that drove me for so many years in this fight. My heart feels broken.” I could see in the eyes of everyone there that we shared the same heartache. Some were shell shocked, some had the glassy eyed look of disbelief, some had scowls of anger…all were in pain.

Kate Kendall, the Executive Director of NCLR expressed how many of us were feeling and what we were experiencing  when she said “our community has gone through a modified version of the five stages of grief – Shock or denial, anger, blame, action, resolve.” And we did it all at once. I think many of us are still working our way through those stages.

I told the crowd at Wesley that I had turned to Martin Luther King for inspiration. King once said, “I must confess, my friends, the road ahead will not always be smooth. There will be still rocky places of frustration and meandering points of bewilderment. There will be inevitable setbacks here and there. There will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed into the fatigue of despair. Our dreams will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted. We may again with tear-drenched eyes have to stand before the bier of some courageous civil rights worker…

Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future. … When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.

I also said that night to take the time to mourn the loss we have suffered.  Take the time to grieve the loss of people who have not stood by our side. Feel your anger. Take the time to heal your wounds. Take the time to ask for friendship and love and support. Take some time to heal.

The LGBT+ community and our allies have been “taking it to the streets” since Prop 8 passed. We have been shouting and waving our fists. We have responded with the anger of someone who has had their heart ripped out by a stranger and they cannot comprehend this action and they can only scream in pain. Yes we lost and that ugly reality has sent shock waves through our souls and through this country.

Some of our opponents called Prop 8 the “
Gettysburg of the cultural war” because of the national impact if CA allowed same sex marriages. We had hoped that we would send a message of fairness and equality across the country as CA did in the fight for interracial marriage but this time the wave was one of disbelief and anger. It woke up a sleeping nation.

So now what? As we rise up and steady our legs and see the battlefield and the consequences that face us since losing Prop 8 … such as the people who cannot get married, or those of us that are married and have no idea of their standing. Questions like… “I got married but what is it worth? Will they try to take it away as they did in San Francisco in 2004? Is this a civil rights battle or not? These and many questions play on our minds. Where does this fight go from here?

I do not have all of the answers but I will try to answer some of those questions today. Though we are “taking it to the streets” to provide a place for our feelings to be shared, and to keep public awareness alive, as well as to make our lives visible,  the battle for Prop 8 now rests in the hands of lawyers and the Justices of the CA Supreme Court. I am not a lawyer so I struggle to understand the legal issues that are taking place to overturn, or repeal, or invalidate Prop 8 I will give it my best shot to explain what is going on in the courts.

On Nov 5th 2008, NCLR, ACLU and Lambda Legal filed a writ with the California Supreme court seeking to invalidate Prop 8. The writ is titled Strauss v. Horton. They based their filing on the fact that the CA constitution does not permit the rights of a minority to be stripped away by a simple majority vote.

It is important to know that substantive law and procedural law are the two main categories within the law. Substantive law refers to the body of rules that determine the rights and obligations of individuals and collective bodies. Laws concerning marriage are substantive laws. In it’s ruling in May the Supreme Court said “we conclude that, under this state’s Constitution, the constitutionally based right to marry properly must be understood to encompass the core set of basic substantive legal rights and attributes traditionally associated with marriage… “

Procedural law, on the other hand, is the body of legal rules that govern the process for determining the rights of parties such as nullity procedures and procedures for the dissolution of marriage.

Now keeping those terms in mind understand that the state constitution can be altered in two ways. One way is by a “revision” for substantial changes which requires a two-thirds vote of the legislature and then approved by a constitutional convention and then a vote by the people. The other way for less substantive changes is called an “amendment” which can be enacted by a simple majority vote. So the petitioner’s hope (us) is that the court will find that Prop 8 was improperly passed because it makes a substantial change to a fundamental right, specifically marriage, which needed to go through the legislature first and follow the process of a “revision” and not be passed as an “amendment” which only requires a simple majority vote.  

Other lawsuits were filed on Nov 5th in the Supreme Court by the City of
San Francisco, the City and County of Los Angeles and Santa Clara County. They also contend that Prop 8 is an improper revision and not an amendment. They also state that it targets a specific minority (the LGBT+ community) and that alone defeats the very purpose of a constitution and fundamentally alters the role of the courts in protecting minority rights.

By Nov 19th over 19 organizations and 44 members of the State Assembly and Senate had voiced their support of the claims presented to the court challenging Prop 8. (Refer to the handout) Also other petitions against Prop 8 were filed by:

1.     Civil rights groups including the Asian Pacific American Law Center, the California State Conference of the NAACP, the Equal Justice Society, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational, Inc. which alleged that Prop 8 threatens the equal protection rights of all Californians;

2.     Women’s groups, including Equal Rights Advocates and the California Women’s Law Center

3.     Religious leaders and faith organizations, including the California Council of Churches, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, two Episcopal Bishops (of California and Los Angeles), the Progressive Jewish Alliance, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations and the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California, and the Northern and Southern California Nevada Conferences of the United Church of Christ

A private attorney in
Los Angeles is also representing two same-sex couples.

On Nov 19th The Supreme Court granted a review in Prop 8 legal challenges and they even set an expedited briefing schedule. Briefs are to be to the court in January 2009. Court spokeswoman Lynn Holton said the court asked the parties involved to write briefs arguing three issues:

(1) Is Proposition 8 invalid because it constitutes a revision of, rather than an amendment to, the California Constitution?

(2) Does Proposition 8 violate the separation-of-powers doctrine under the California Constitution?

(3) If Proposition 8 is not unconstitutional, what is its effect, if any, on the marriages of same-sex couples performed before the adoption of Proposition 8?

The court could hear oral arguments in March 2009. Then they will have 90 days to make their ruling.

One interesting fact to keep in mind over the next few months is that in the past 100 years the CA Supreme Court has heard nine cases challenging the validity of initiatives or legislative measures that made revisions to the state constitution. The odds are not on our side since only three of those nine cases invalidated those measures.  

Ok so let’s look at some of these questions one at a time.

First no same sex couple can obtain a marriage license at this time because when an initiative passes per the CA constitution it immediately goes into effect the day after the election. A stay to block the implementation of Prop 8 was filed by NCLR on Nov 5th but it was not granted by the court.

(1) Is Proposition 8 invalid because it constitutes a revision of, rather than an amendment to, the California Constitution?

I believe that the Supreme Court validated the substantive nature of marriage when it stated in it’s May 15th ruling that “the constitutionally based right to marry properly must be understood to encompass the core set of basic substantive legal rights and attributes traditionally associated with marriage are so integral to an individual’s liberty and personal autonomy that they may not be eliminated or abrogated by the Legislature or by the electorate through the statutory initiative process.”

You know Thomas Jefferson warned about those who would oppress others by abusing the law when he said “…because law is but often the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” I think those justices who are schooled in constitutional law, who stand for fairness, and whose duty it is to stand up for justice… will see Prop 8 for what it is “the tyrant’s will.” 

(2) Does Proposition 8 violate the separation-of-powers doctrine under the California Constitution?

          Yes I believe the separation of power doctrine was violated by Prop 8 because it takes away the Supreme Court’s ability to do it’s duty and to protect the rights of all Californians. In our democracy, we have three branches of government (legislative, judicial and executive) in which we have a division of power that is designed to help accountability between the branches and to prevent tyranny because the majority should never define the rights of the minority.

In a separation of power the judicial branch has the right to say that something is unconstitutional. The duty of the Supreme Court is to interpret the law and to say what is right and wrong. It is not “judicial activism” when the justices fulfill their judicial obligations even if you do not agree with their findings.   

As stated by the CA Supreme Court… “It sits at the apex of authority in the state’s judicial system, and as such it may review decisions of the Courts of Appeal in order to settle important questions of law and ensure that the law is applied uniformly. The Supreme Court has considerable discretion in deciding which decisions to review…” 

The process for revision of the CA constitution, which includes a two thirds vote of the legislature before an initiative goes to a vote is one example of how one branch helps to check and balance another branch, in this case the judicial branch.

(3) If Proposition 8 is not unconstitutional, what is its effect, if any, on the marriages of same-sex couples performed before the adoption of Proposition 8?

          My first response is to say that the 18,000 marriages will remain in tact because they were legal at the time they occurred. Normally laws are not retroactive. Another reason why the marriages will remain in tact is that Prop 8 did not specifically state anything about nullifying the marriages already performed. Ca Attorney General Jerry Brown has stated that the existing marriages would not be affected. But not everyone agrees with this view especially since the court asked for briefs on this subject.

So is this a civil rights battle or not? To answer that I thought I would review some of our history.

Civil and Political Rights are defined as a class of rights that ensure the protection of people’s physical integrity, individual freedom of belief, speech, association, and political participation, due process in judicial matters and the protection from discrimination based on gender, religion, race, and sexual orientation. By this definition, I would say the fight for marriage is most certainly a civil rights issue.

Throughout the history of the United States we have seen many civil rights movements. Early on in the 19th century we had the Suffrage Movement which was an economic and political reform movement aimed at obtaining the right for women to vote. The first women’s rights convention was held in 1848. One of their first concerns was that blacks had unjustly been excluded from the right to vote. Seventy-two years from that first meeting in 1920 the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granted women the right to vote.

The Suffrage Movement gave birth to the Women’s Movement which further evolved into the Feminist Movement. In 1955, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin began the Daughters of Bilitis which was the first lesbian organization in the country.

From the 1960’s through the 1980’s the broader focus was on cultural and political inequalities. The question of a sexist structure of power was prominent. Reproductive rights were a major issue. The time was reflected in the mantra “The Personal is Political” The feminists of the sixties began the push for gender neutral language which later was one reason Prop 22 happened when the State of CA was  making the language used in policies gender neutral. They did not know what to do in the marriage statute. Some people feared that this might permit same sex marriages. “One man and one woman” was born.  Early feminist theology influenced the role of women in the clergy, the view of male dominated imagery and language in reference to God, and the overall equality of men and women in a religious framework. They were definitely rocking the boat in the sixties.

Like the other civil rights movements mentioned, the African American Movement, also known as the American Civil Rights movement, had deep roots in slavery, in religious oppression, and in institutional discrimination in the form of segregation.

The movement sometimes called the Southern Freedom Movement by those involved in it was like all of the others movements because it sought dignity for the individual, racial dignity, economic and political self-sufficiency and freedom from oppression.

The African American movement brought the issues of segregation in the law, in public facilities and in government services such as education to the surface. It addressed the disenfranchisement of black voters. The movement challenged the economic oppression and employment discrimination of all people of color. It faced down the violence by individuals, police and organizations directed towards blacks, Latinos, and Asians.  Out of this movement in 1909 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was created.

I could talk at length about the many marches, boycotts and actions that occurred during this era. I could speak of many leaders, of the deaths of Dr. King and President Kennedy and their fight for civil rights. I remember these events as if they were yesterday.

The early Gay liberation movement began in the 18th century. In England in 1785 the first known argument for homosexual law reform was written. Then in 1791
France became the first nation to decriminalize homosexuality.  Unfortunately in
America it took us until 2003 when The Supreme Court in
Lawrence v
Texas deemed that sodomy laws were unconstitutional.

As we approached the 19th century social reformers went underground.

The earliest known secret group formed explicitly to advance the rights of homosexuals in the
United States was in 1924 in
Chicago. The group was called The Society for Human Rights.

Then in 1961 The Mattachine Society was the first national gay rights organization formed by Harry Hay who many consider the founder of the gay rights movement. All of their demonstrations were orderly and polite. The men dressed in suits and the women wore dresses and looked as main stream as Ozzie and Harriet. But their signs spoke a different message. The first recorded gay rights march was in 1965 in Philadelphia. In 1966 transgender prostitutes rioted in the Tenderloin against police brutality.

Then in 1969 came the Stonewall riots in New York City and a new era was ushered in to bring the issue out from underground more than any other event had at that time. The new Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was born and their motto was “out, loud and proud.” The GLF organized Gay Pride parades to honor the riot at Stonewall and the pride that emerged from those events.

During this time there was a “separatist movement” especially among lesbians who felt that men were dominating the GLF. I believe during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and early 90s men and women began to see that we had to work together to survive. During this time militancy in the gay community rose up with groups such as Act UP and Queer Nation. Those groups felt that many of the leadership of the time had become conservative. This remains is an issue today especially with the budding youth involvement.

The 1990s waved in the era of gender variant people and we became LGBTI, or alphabet soup, as each faction of the movement began to have an even louder voice. The focus had become the interplay of oppression which addressed the multifaceted areas of discrimination faced by the community such as in housing, employment, sexual identity, race and social status, and disability.

We know that our fight is about civil marriage. We know that this fight is about civil rights. We know it is about the freedom to love the person of our choice. Martin Luther King once said, “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” (PAUSE)

So though the events of today seem so new and unique, in actuality they are just extensions of the many movements that paved the way for what began as the fight for our rights. First we were fighting for “gay marriage” and then we were said to be asking for special rights so we changed it to “same sex marriage.” Then all we heard was “one man-one woman.” Now it is simply “civil marriage”. Finally we have landed and now it is about civil rights, the heart of every movement. So today, I am not a gay activist but a civil rights activist. My focus is clearer.

Throughout time our community has always faced opposition from the repressiveness of Victorian Era, to Anita Bryant and her religious crusade of the 1970s, to today and the fundamentalists of the Yes on 8 campaigns. It will not stop especially if Prop 8 is repealed. So what now and where do we go from here?

Well we must sustain the fight. As the women and drag queens who took to the streets Of New York we must maintain community actions, protest, and have boycotts to send the message of our economic power. During the campaign for Prop 8 ProtectMarriage.com sent extortion letters to donors of Equality California. They wanted them to support their efforts or they would out them as donors. So it is time for us to out those who supported Prop 8. You can go to Gay Fresno.com to find the list of Yes on 8 supporters.

As a person of faith, I struggled with how this worked concerning the churches who supported Prop 8. I now believe that once those churches entered the political arena they became fair game. Much like the gay protests of the 60s, I support orderly protests at religious institutions. But everywhere we can bang our drums loud and clear.

The time to rise up above the wounds from this election is now. Complacency is our biggest enemy. I talked with another activist who has been working on this issue since the Briggs initiative and I asked her what advice to give today. She said “tell them to stay with the movement. She said this is a civil rights issue and where would the black community be if it walked away from the fight for four years? Stay with it 365 days.” We can no longer give anyone the power to oppress us so we must form alliances and gather up allies.

Harvey Milk said “you gotta give em hope”. That is what a movement must have to survive. Right now our hope lies in the hands of justices in
San Francisco. But the hope of living in a society that affirms us in every way lies in changing the hearts and minds of our fellow non-gay citizens. The one shining moment for us on Election Day was that we now have hope in a President who will not pursue a Federal Constitutional amendment, a President who believes we deserve dignity and will treat us as such. Barack Obama was the first president to ever mention the word gay in his acceptance speech.

So we must become visible. We cannot win hidden in the closet. Harvey Milk said it so eloquently when he said, “Gay brothers and sisters, you must come out. Come out…to your parents…I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives. ..Come out to your friends…if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors…to your fellow workers…to the people who work where you eat and shop…come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngster who are becoming scarred by the votes…”

Visibility is imperative. I have heard the argument that this fight is not about civil rights because we can hide our differences unlike blacks. That fact has only hurt this community. It has been our Achilles heel.

We should not have to hide who we are born to be any more than a black person should wish to be a white person.  The United Nations states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”  We need to stand side by side with other minorities and share in the sisterhood of who we are in this country.

Everyone here today can help this to happen by helping make it safe to come out in our society and by supporting PFLAG to help parents continue to love their children when they come out. We can do this by demanding that a Human Rights Commission exist at Fresno City Hall to monitor the police and to help set safe policies, provide education and to have liaisons with the other government offices.

Encourage everyone to come out and be heard, to be seen, and to be accepted for who they truly are!  Only we can erase the fears that frightened people into a life of shame and despair. We can change this society. It is simple, we must be known.

Only we have the power to change what people think of our community. Each of you can meet one person and share with them who you are and what you know about these issues. The LGTB+ people need to share how love is a part of their life.  Only you can make them realize they have nothing to fear from our love.  We need people in Sanger and Orange Cove and
Selma and
Hanford and inside every church to know that we are more similar than dissimilar.

We need to change the political landscape of
Fresno. I know many of you here have been working on that for years so let’s join together. We have got to challenge the Democratic Party to take a stand on this issue and not be so frightened of losing votes.  Groups like CCA need to continue to work with the many allies we have such as such as the CVPPAC, and the various democratic groups in town.

 

Anne Kronenberg, who coordinated Milk’s campaign, says over the course of many years of activism, Milk helped transform the city’s political landscape and set the stage for the transformation of
San Francisco. He understood we can’t do it by ourselves," she said… Milk organized minorities to become the majority. We must strive to do this here. We need to have representatives on various committees sharing our concerns and hearing the concerns of others and working together to solve these problems together. People without power do not have influence.

CCA has been working to connect the LGBT leaders and our straight allies for years. Several months ago we discussed at our board meeting, and committed to forming a committee, to help get a LGBT+ Community Center in
Fresno. The time is now to make this happen. We need to have a central location where people can find us, get information and where we can support each other. It is vital. I have met with many of the leaders in our community and we all want to make this happen.  

Once we have won back our civil rights in Ca it will be time to address The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which is a federal law that was passed in 1996. DOMA says that no state has to recognize a same sex marriage from another state.

Also DOMA dictates that the Federal Government may not treat same sex relationships as marriages for any reason even if a state does recognize that marriage. DOMA specifically states that marriage is only a legal union between one man and one woman. DOMA passed overwhelmingly in both the House and the Senate and it has not been challenged in the Supreme Court yet.  

We need to support the organizations and the people who stand for equality. Right now lawyers from the ACLU, Lambda Legal and NCLR are fighting for our rights in the courtroom. They are our voices and our warriors now. Please donate to these groups to help to support their valuable work.

The LGBT+ community will stand tall and continue to love regardless of the legal status of marriage. We will continue to be families. We will eventually win this fight.  When the CA Supreme Court, in 2005, first ruled that gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry I was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle as saying "I’m elated, I’m grateful, I’m honored that California is taking the stance behind all Americans’ civil rights,. I know this is one step in a long road to equality, but it’s a good step, it’s a proud step, and I’m just really excited today that our judicial system is standing up for the rights that our government seems to have forgotten." Sadly we are still on road to freedom.    

At every opportunity, on every day, we must stand up for our civil rights. This is a really tall order that can only be achieved if we do this together because one group or a few people doing the work will fail. Civil rights have never been won without teamwork. Revolutions occur when the masses unite.

We must remind people that the issue here is about whether all Californians should have the same rights concerning civil marriage and not any of the lies spread during the Prop 8 campaign.We need to remind this country that we are a Secular nation in which Christianity is the leading religious practice, versus a “Christian nation.” This confusion has eroded our civil liberties right out from under our feet. The LGBT+ community must accept the responsibility to shout from the rooftops, from the roadways, from our homes, and from the halls of justice that we will accept nothing less than all the freedoms guaranteed us by the Constitution because above all else we are Americans first.

Finally I would like to close with the words of Martin Luther King. “Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make
America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make
America a better nation.”

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