Monday, April 27, 2009

Marriage Equality Counter Religious Objections

Yale's Conspiracy of Silence by Larry Kramer

Twelve years after Yale rejected a $7 million endowment for a gay student center, the school's Gay and Lesbian Association invited legendary playwright and gay-rights activist Larry Kramer back to campus to receive its first Lifetime Achievement Award. The following is his speech.

I have come here to apologize to you.

It took a long time for Yale to accept Kramer money. After a number of years of trying to get Yale to accept mine for gay professorships or to let me raise funds for a gay student center, (both offers declined), my extraordinary straight brother Arthur offered Yale $1 million to set up the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies and Yale accepted it. My good friend and a member of the Yale Corporation, Calvin Trillin, managed to convince President Levin that I was a pussycat. The year was 2001.

Five years later, in 2006, Yale closed down LKI, as it had come to be called. Yale removed its director, Jonathan David Katz. All references to LKI were expunged from Web sites and answering machines and directories and syllabuses. One day LKI was just no longer here.
When this happened I thought my heart would break.

I wanted gay history to be taught. I wanted gay history to be about who we are, and who we were, by name, and from the beginning of our history, which is the same as the beginning of everyone else’s history.

By chance, just as we opened for business, Jonathan Ned Katz, our first visiting scholar, and Jonathan David Katz discovered that John William Sterling, Yale’s first really major benefactor, who died in 1918, had been gay and lived with one man only, James O. Bloss, all their adult lives. We released this information to the world, with great pride and excitement. What a way to launch ourselves! In no time flat I received a phone call from a classmate who is a partner in Shearman & Sterling, the giant law firm John Sterling founded, telling me that this information had not gone down well there and indicating that Yale would hear about it.

Jonathan David Katz, who is an art historian, put on an exhibition of the relationship of Robert Rauschenberg and his gay lover and how it affected his art. This, too, did not sit well. Jonathan David Katz’s courses were taken away from him. He was told he could no longer teach.

A book of great historical importance was published in 2005. It is called The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, by the distinguished gay member of the Kinsey Institute, Dr. C. A. Tripp. It maintains that Lincoln was gay. I had a great deal to do with its publication. I had offered it to Yale. Yale wanted nothing to do with it.

When I set LKI up I didn’t know that gay studies included all kinds of other things and these other things ruled the roost: gender studies, queer studies, queer theory. And that then-Provost Alison Richard, who immediately left to run Cambridge University, my attorney, Bill Zabel, and I were ignorant of the great semantic differences lurking in the words “studies” and “history.” Thus I was not able as I might have been when initial negotiations were transpiring, to insist that my brother’s money be funneled via the history department rather than leave it up to Yale, which plunked LKI just where it should not have been, in the women’s and gender studies department. The various queer and gender theories I came to quickly realize as relatively useless for a people looking to learn about our real history drowned us out completely. Month after month, over these five years, as I was sent constant email announcements of lectures and courses and activities that reflected as much about real history as a comic book, I slowly began to go nuts. I made pleas everywhere I could, in the Yale Daily News, to then-Dean Peter Salovey and then history chair, Paul Freedman. Please put us in the History Department, I begged. I made a public plea to another provost, Emily Bakemeier, at a Berkeley Master’s Tea. I brought letters to Provosts Long and Bakemeier from George Chauncey, then at Chicago and now, in no small part because of me, here at Yale, and from Martin Duberman, whom I had put on LKI’s advisory board, two of our most distinguished gay historians. Martin stated in no uncertain terms, and George concurred with him, then: “Yale is doing it wrong. You do not teach gay history via gender studies, via queer theory. You are making the same mistake every other gay program makes.”

Yes, I came to see this and this big deal activist came to see that he was powerless. I apologize to you. I bore witness to all this. I bore witness to the fact that the university was ridding itself of a teacher, Jonathan David Katz, who was exceptionally loved and admired. The kids stood up and cheered him nonstop with tears in their eyes. “He is the best teacher I have ever had for anything, period,” is a direct quote from one young man. On his day at Yale, Jonathan somehow managed to get the Yale Art Gallery to remove from storage, for this one day, work by the following artists: Homer, Eakins, Sargent, Bellows, Demuth, Hartley, O’Keefe, Rauschenberg, Johns, Twombley, Nevelson, Martin, Indiana, Morris, and Warhol. Jonathan lectured in the Art Gallery to a packed house about why he considers each of these great American artists gay and how this is reflected in their work. I had brought one of the heads of the Phillips Collection in Washington. “What a brilliant piece of scholarship,” she said. This event, also, did not go down well somewhere in the murky invisible inner sanctums of Yale’s Soviet-style bureaucracy. Yale was getting rid of the only faculty member teaching the kind of gay history that I longed for and I was powerless to help rectify this great mistake. Yes, this famous big deal loudmouth activist apologizes to you, and to Jonathan. My lover, David, says I did not sit on the nest enough. I did not become enough of the Larry Kramer they were afraid of.

There were and are 22 courses offered in the Pink Book of LGBT studies for this year. Only one of them, the course George Chauncey teaches entitled U.S. Lesbian and Gay History, is a gay history course.

Here are the others:
•Gender and Sexuality in Popular Music
•Critical Ethnography: Methods, Ethics, Poetics
•Cross-Cultural Narratives of Desire
•Gender Transgression
•Sex and Romance in Adolescence
•Biology of Gender and Sexuality
•Anthropology of Sex and Sexualities
•Beauty, Fashion, and Self-styling
•Gendering Musical Performance
•Gender Images: A Psychological Perspective
•Gender, Nation, and Sexuality in Modern Latin America
•Queer Ethnographies
•Music and Queer Identies

The word “queer” also embellishes most of the activities and lectures and fellowships and appointments announced in those various emails. It seems as if everything is queer this and queer that.

Just as a point of information, I would like to proclaim with great pride: I am not queer! And neither are you. When will we stop using this adolescent and demeaning word to identify ourselves? Like our history that is not taught, using this word will continue to guarantee that we are not taken seriously in the world.

Here are some of the things that I have uncovered about our history in writing my new book, The American People:

That Jamestown was America’s first community of homosexuals, men who came to not only live with each other as partners but to adopt and raise children bought from the Indians. Some even arranged wedding ceremonies for themselves.

That George Washington was gay, and that his relationships with Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette were homosexual. And that his feelings for Hamilton led to a government and a country that became Hamiltonian rather than Jeffersonian.

That Meriwether Lewis was in love with William Clark and committed suicide when their historic journey was over and he wouldn’t see Clark anymore.

That Abraham Lincoln was gay and had many, many gay interactions, that his nervous breakdown occurred when he and his lover, Joshua Speed, were forced to part, and that his sensitivity to the slaves came from his firsthand knowledge of what it meant to be so very different. And that the possibility exists that Lincoln was murdered because he was gay and John Wilkes Booth, who was gay, knew this.

That Franklin Pierce, who became one of America’s worst presidents, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, who became one of our greatest writers, as roommates at Bowdoin College had interactions that changed them both forever and, indeed, served as the wellspring for what Hawthorne came to write about. Pierce was gay. And Hawthorne? Herman Melville certainly wanted him to be.

That most of the great actresses who endlessly toured America during the 19th century bringing theater to the masses were lesbians and occasionally dressed as men. Just like Katherine Hepburn.

That the plague of AIDS was allowed to happen because much of the world hates us and most of the world knows nothing about us. They don’t know we are related to Washington and Lincoln.

I needed no queer theories, no gender studies, to figure all this out.

Why can’t we accept that homosexuality has been pretty much the same since the beginning of human history, whether it was called homosexuality, sodomy, buggery, hushmarkedry, or hundreds of other things, or had no name at all? What we do now they pretty much did then. Period. Men have always had cocks and men have pretty much always known what to do with them. It is just stupidity and elite presumption of the highest and most preposterous order to theorize, in these regards, that then was different from now.

Do you know that men loving men does not require the sexual act to qualify them as homosexuals? My American Heritage unabridged dictionary lists two definitions for homosexuality: the first: “sexual orientation activity to persons of the same sex; and the second: “sexual activity with another of the same sex.” In other words, it is not necessary, nor should it be, to have had sex with another of the same sex, to maintain that a person is homosexual. Why, then, do academics, indeed everyone, insist on this second definition over the first? This theory makes it all but impossible in many cases to claim a person as one of us.

Is Yale actually afraid to teach any of this? To actually name names out loud from Abe Lincoln to John Sterling to Robert Rauschenberg? And why is the History Department allowing history to be hijacked by the queer theorists just as the English Department allowed Paul DeMan and Jacques Derrida to highjack literature for the deconstructionists? That travesty found safe haven here at Yale too.

History is about people events more than it is about theory. We need to know specifically who our brothers and sisters, our ancestors, our own people, are and were! John Demilio has written an award-winning biography of Bayard Ruskin, the trusted associate of Martin Luther King, which reveals that Ruskin was homosexual and was assassinated because of it. How many years did the world refuse to acknowledge that Jefferson had a black mistress? Such knowledge, when it was finally accepted, has invigorated black studies and given people of color a new pride in themselves and in each other, in their people, in their rightful place in America’s history.
Gays must have this! We must. We must if we are to endure.

I asked Peter Salovey recently why he thought LKI was closed down. Who was behind it? What was behind it? His answer was: “We’ll never know.”

In a recent Yale Daily News article, a gay staff reporter, sophomore Raymond Carlson, wrote that The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students lists Yale as among the bottom of the heap in terms of institutional support and administrative services for its gay students and gay studies.
For those of you here celebrating Yale’s acceptance of us, I am here to tell you that there is not quite so much to celebrate yet. Yes, it is a long way from my freshman year in 1953 when I tried to kill myself. But like so much that continues to happen to us, there is still too much invisible shit blocking the acceptance that we need and we are due.
So I receive GALA’s award with a certain bittersweet acceptance. As I hope I have made clear, I feel very alienated from this university which took my brother’s money and my dream and slammed the door in both our faces.

In closing, once again I apologize to you for failing you. And for failing my brother, who died last year. And for failing myself. I wanted so very very much for the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay History at Yale to succeed for you and for all our people.

But, yes, thank you. We are all fellow warriors and I salute you.

Larry Kramer is a writer and gay-rights activist.

Hattip! - The Daily Beast (and Andy Velez)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Gay Marriage Legal in Vermont
By 365gay Newscenter Staff 04.07.2009 11:24am EDT

(Montpelier, Vermont) Vermont has become the fourth state where same-sex marriage is legal. and the first to do so in the legislature.

The House and Senate on Tuesday overrode Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto of a marriage bill.

The Republican governor, as expected, nixed the bill Monday night when it arrived on his desk and sent it back to the legislature.

The Senate voted 23-5 to override the veto. It then moved to the House which voted 100-49- the exact number needed to override the veto.

While the broad spread in the Senate was predicted, the House vote went down to the wire. Dozens of gay marriage supporters wearing Freedom to marry stickers began arriving at the State House early Tuesday morning. Democratic leaders predicted the vote could come down to a single vote, and they were right.

“Today Vermont legislators did the right thing by overriding Governor Douglas’ veto and granting equal rights to all Vermonters,” said Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin in a statement.

“The struggle for equal rights is never easy. I was proud to be President of the Senate nine years ago when Vermont led the country by creating civil unions. Today is another historic day for Vermont and I have never felt more proud as we become the first state in the country to enact marriage equality not as the result of a court order, but because it is the right thing to do,” said Shumlin.

In vetoing the marriage equality bill, Douglas attempted to portray himself as a moderate, putting the blame on the federal defense of marriage law.

“This legislation does not address the inequalities espoused by proponents,” his statement said. “Regardless of whether the term marriage is applied, federal benefits will still be denied to same sex couples in Vermont.”

Douglas said that the legislation does not provide any additional benefits not already available under Vermont’s civil unions law.

Vermont was the first state in the country to legalize civil unions in 2000. Since then, LGBT groups have criticized the law for creating a “two tiered” system - marriage for opposite-sex couples and civil unions for gays.

The marriage law amends the old civil unions law to allow marriage of same-sex partners beginning Sept. 1. Civil unions, which confer some rights similar to marriage, would still be recognized but no longer granted after Sept. 1.

The law also guarantees that churches would not be obligated to marry same-sex couples.
Vermont now joins Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa with legalized same-sex marriage - but the only one in which the legislature voted to allow same-sex couples to marry. Legalization in the other three states came as a result of court action.

Marriage bills also are being considered in Maine and New Hampshire.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Political IQ:
The sad truth about Gays and the economy
by Diane Silver

I am not feeling particularly rich these days. Every time the Dow Jones average plunges and new unemployment figures are released, my stomach churns. I go into terror mode as I contemplate my economic future. I suspect I'm not alone. Worry over the crashing economy has got to be darn near universal.

Along with other LGBT Americans, though, I'm particularly vulnerable to economic downturns. Our problems don't come from stupidity, lack of education, or picking the wrong careers. Our problems come from state and federal laws that stack the deck against anyone who isn't heterosexual.

The range of economic liabilities facing LGBT folks is breathtaking.

Because I'm a Lesbian, it's easier to keep me from getting a job or to boot me out of one, even if I'm the best worker a company ever hired. Today only 20 states and the District of Columbia prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Of those, only 13 prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. Many cities and counties provide protection, but most don't.

In an economy where 651,000 people lost their jobs in February, this lack of protection paints targets on the backs of millions of LGBT workers.

We can't even fall back on the old recession-fighting strategy of joining the military. We're banned from serving openly. Despite his campaign promise to end the ban, President Barack Obama has yet to make any meaningful move to do so.

And then there's the issue of marriage. As financial advisor Suze Orman noted in a Valentine's Day message on her TV show, "You will save thousands, tens of thousands of dollars, all kinds of money, if you are allowed to marry."That's a right that same-sex couples don't have in 48 states. For us, and our children, that means the more than 1,100 legal and financial benefits that heterosexuals receive are simply out of reach.

Even in Massachusetts and Connecticut, where we can marry, the hideously named Defense of Marriage Act deprives us of, among other things, Social Security spousal benefits, health insurance, tax breaks and disability and death benefits for spouses of federal employees, veterans and public safety officers. When we do get to participate in the benefits offered to spouses at our partners' workplaces, we face taxes heterosexuals never see.

For couples like Dorene and Mary Bowe-Shulman, those taxes literally take money away from their children. Together for 14 years and married in Massachusetts, the couple's kids are Emma Jae, 10, and Olivia, 7. Dorene is a stay-at-home mother and a two-time cancer survivor. After they married in 2004 and added Dorene to Mary's health insurance policy at work, they received a shock. Dorene's portion of the insurance was taxed as if Dorene wasn't part of Mary's family.

Under DOMA, Mary's employer must tax every benefit provided to a same-sex spouse. Today, the couple loses about $140 a month because of that tax. That's money they would have put into their daughters' college funds. Because they can't file federal taxes as a married couple, Mary and Dorene also take a financial hit. In 2006 alone, the family paid $3,332 more in taxes because of DOMA.

Mary and Dorene, by the way, are among the eight same-sex couples and three surviving spouses who just filed suit challenging DOMA in federal court.

Stereotypically, all of us Gay folks are supposed to be rich. We're all supposed to have fancy apartments, fast cars and no kids. While some members of our community live the wealthy life, many of us don't.

In a December 2007 study, UCLA's Williams Institute reported that the annual earnings of men in same-sex couples in the United States were $43,117, compared to the $49,777 taken in by married heterosexual men. The median income of same-sex couples with children was $46,200, or 23 percent lower than the $59,600 median income of married heterosexual parents.

We need to pay close attention to the ongoing efforts to stimulate the economy. Crashes hurt everyone, but they cut deeper into our community because we're already hobbled by financial handicaps. We need to push for economic plans that can work, and rail against those that make no sense.

But we also can't back off on our ongoing effort to win equality. Already our families are being left behind.

Because of DOMA, Obama's plans to stimulate the economy through mortgage breaks or tuition tax credits for families can't be extended to our households. Because Congress has yet to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act or get rid of the ban on Gays serving openly in the military, LGBT workers face a greater likelihood of unemployment.

As frightening as the economy is now, it will rebound. The question is whether LGBT Americans will be part of that recovery or not.

Diane Silver is a former newspaper reporter and magazine editor, whose work has appeared in The Progressive,, Ms., and other national publications. She can be reached care of this publication or at
Six gay men shot to death in Iraq by tribe members
By Mohammed Tawfeeq
CNN - updated 8:30 a.m. EDT, Sun April 5, 2009

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Six gay men were shot dead by members of their tribe in two separate incidents in the past 10 days, an official with Iraq's Interior ministry said.

In the most recent attack, two men were killed Thursday in Sadr City area of Baghdad after they were disowned by relatives, the official said.

The shootings came after a tribal meeting was held and the members decided to go after the victims.

On March 26, four additional men were fatally shot in the same city, the official said, adding that the victims had also been disowned by their relatives.

The official declined to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
Witnesses told CNN that a Sadr City cafe, which was a popular gathering spot for gays, was also set on fire.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Will the California Supreme Court Strike Down Prop 8, or "Willy-Nilly Disregard" Its Duty?
Evan Wolfson
The Huffington Post - 04/01/09

If the March 5 oral argument before the California Supreme Court was any guide (which oral argument isn't always), Chief Justice Ronald George may be on the verge of making a terrible, heartbreaking mistake.

The Court is due to rule soon on a set of challenges to Proposition 8, the November ballot-measure that stripped the freedom to marry away from committed same-sex couples. The challenges are supported by preeminent African-American, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific civil rights organizations; cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles; teachers and child-welfare professionals; religious leaders; businesses and labor unions; and advocates for same-sex couples and their families. All of them have asked the Court to uphold the bedrock principle of American constitutional government that a simple majority may not selectively vote away a fundamental right from a minority targeted for invidious, suspect reasons.

Most who saw the oral argument perceived Chief Justice George and Justice Joyce Kennard as straining to justify their apparently likely votes to uphold Prop 8. Their barrage of hostile questions and comments suggested that the civil rights advocates were asking the Court to, in Justice Kennard's words, "willy-nilly disregard the will of the people." But in fact the Constitution — itself the "ultimate expression of the people's will," as Chief Justice George recalled in 2008 — spells out two separate procedures for change: one for ordinary "amendments," the other for more significant "revisions" such as Prop 8. Revisions, the Constitution says, require a more deliberate, careful process including review and a greater-than-mere majority vote by the Legislature before a measure is placed on the ballot. The Prop 8 forces chose not to follow the rules, including the constitutional safeguard against willy-nilly votes mandated, yes, by the people themselves. Indeed, shortly before the argument, the Legislature passed a resolution urging the Court to strike down Prop 8 because the Prop 8 forces in their zeal deprived the Legislature of its constitutional responsibility to review the measure.

The Court has the duty to strike down Prop 8, a measure that, while it received a narrow majority, should not have been on the ballot in the first place. The Court should explain that the interests of all of us, even a temporarily disgruntled majority, are better served when the rules are upheld. The Court should remind the public that, as the U.S. Supreme Court has said, "There is no more effective practical guaranty against arbitrary and unreasonable government than to require that the principles of law which officials would impose upon a minority must be imposed generally." That restraining principle is an essential pillar of equal protection. The very idea that the Court would permit a simple majority to even inadvertently discard such a defining element of the Constitution is distressing.

But, shockingly, the Chief Justice spoke as if his hands were tied by the mere fact of the November vote, the legitimacy of which is the very issue before the Court. He did not explain that equal protection at a minimum obliges the majority to itself abide by whatever treatment it imposes on a minority — a core structural principle eviscerated by Prop 8, which removed the fundamental right to marry for the gay minority alone while retaining that precious right for the majority. Rather, Chief Justice George appeared to profess helplessness in the face of precedents on how to distinguish a revision from a mere amendment. However, it was the Court itself that set those precedents, which themselves did not preclude logical extension should an unprecedented situation require further vigilance. As Justice Kathryn Werdeger and other justices noted, Prop 8 is exactly such an unprecedented assault. To build on and beyond precedents where warranted is why we have judges, not just law books.

Never before has the Court allowed a fundamental right to be voted away from a targeted minority. Never before has the Court taken the invitation of a lawyer, such as Prop 8's Ken Starr, to set a precedent that, as Starr repeatedly conceded, would put no state constitutional limitation on a future majority's ability to vote away protections against race or sex discrimination or cherished freedoms such as speech, worship, or, yes, the freedom to marry — the "essence" of which, the California Supreme Court explained in 1948 when it became the first court in the U.S. with the courage to strike down race restrictions on marriage, is the right "to join in marriage with the person of one's choice," the person who to you may be "irreplaceable." Imagine what California and our country would look like today had that court flinched in the face of the 90% disapproval of the then-majority. Imagine what the Constitution would look like if a mere majority could always cement inequality or a selective denial of fundamental rights into it, without even the procedural protection of the deliberative revision process the people themselves set forth.

As destructive and tragic as a new precedent upholding Prop 8 would be, however, that's not even the potential mistake to which I referred at the beginning. Chief Justice George's and Justice Kennard 's exchanges at oral argument suggested that they may be about to minimize their own ringing and legacy-shaping 2008 Marriage Cases opinions, apparently as a way of avoiding the obligation to follow through and strike down Prop 8. They seemed to suggest that the selective stripping away of marriage was not all that significant, that because same-sex couples still would have partnership rights, their forced exclusion from marriage was a matter of mere "nomenclature." This was the most unkindest cut of all.

Hearing dismissive characterizations such as "nomenclature" during oral argument, it was hard to believe that here was the same courageous judge's judge who less than a year ago wrote the following in Marriage Cases [emphasis added]:
"Because of the long and celebrated history of the term "marriage" and the widespread understanding that this term describes a union unreservedly approved and favored by the community, there clearly is a considerable and undeniable symbolic importance to this designation. Thus, it is apparent that affording access to this designation exclusively to opposite-sex couples, while providing same-sex couples access to only a novel alternative designation, realistically must be viewed as constituting significantly unequal treatment to same-sex couples."

"[P]articularly in light of the historic disparagement of and discrimination against gay persons, there is a very significant risk that retaining a distinction in nomenclature with regard to this most fundamental of relationships whereby the term "marriage" is denied only to same-sex couples inevitably will cause the new parallel institution that has been made available to those couples to be viewed as of a lesser stature than marriage and, in effect, as a mark of second-class citizenship."

"[R]etaining the traditional definition of marriage and affording same-sex couples only a separate and differently named family relationship will, as a realistic matter, impose appreciable harm on same-sex couples and their children, because denying couples access to the familiar and highly favored designation of marriage is likely to cast doubt on whether the official family relationship of same-sex couples enjoys dignity equal to that of opposite-sex couples."

"[A]lthough the meaning of the term 'marriage' is well understood by the public generally, the status of domestic partnership is not. While it is true that this circumstance may change over time, it is difficult to deny that the unfamiliarity of the term 'domestic partnership' is likely, for a considerable period of time, to pose significant difficulties and complications for same-sex couples, and perhaps more poignantly for their children, that would not be presented if, like opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples were permitted access to the established and well-understood family relationship of marriage."
The Chief Justice was right in Marriage Cases when he wrote these and other similar passages, and would be horribly wrong now to trivialize or turn away from them. It is no answer to say that Prop 8 changed the Constitution; the very question before the Court is whether such a profound revision withdrawing equal protection and a recognized fundamental freedom is permitted.

At various civil rights moments in American history, the courts' vital role in enforcing equal protection, and judges themselves, have come under tremendous pressure. Recall, for instance, the "Impeach Earl Warren" billboards following Brown v. Board of Education, the vitriol against the California Supreme Court when it had to strike down a 1964 constitutional change that undermined protections against race-discrimination, and the Rovian campaign of intimidation waged against so-called "activist judges" these past 8 Bush years. Its shining moment in standing up against such intimidation, in addition to its right result on marriage and equal citizenship for lesbian and gay Americans, was why I and millions cheered the Court's courage and clarity in 2008. In Marriage Cases, we saw a court do its job, and do it right.

Unlike right-wing opponents of equality, who denounce and seek to punish courts for doing their job, I criticize only when they flinch or fail to do it. If the Court, and if this Chief Justice, vote to uphold Prop 8's damaging blow to American constitutional principles, it will be a terrible mistake, failing their obligation under and to the California Constitution. If in so doing, they compound that mistake by selling short, or sidling away from, the truths set forth so powerfully in Chief Justice George's 2008 ruling — the fundamental nature of the freedom to marry, the way in which exclusion from marriage itself denies equality and imposes the stigma of second-class citizenship — they will do a powerful disservice to the people, to the Constitution, and to history, which for the moment still ranks them alongside the judges who struck down race discrimination and the subordination of women in marriage in the face of the passions of the moment, and were vindicated. Failure of judgment and duty now will tarnish their own legacy, wreak real harm on gay people and their loved ones, and shatter the faith of millions in the courts and their legitimate and crucial role in our constitutional system.

To be remembered, after all, for these missed stakes, would be heartbreaking.

Evan Wolfson is Executive Director of Freedom to Marry, and author of Why Marriage Matters.

In response to the growing equality movement in California and across the country, community organizers are issuing a call for the use of nonviolent civil disobedience to further the cause. This call comes at a time when the equality movement is energized surrounding the upcoming California Supreme Court decision on the validity of Proposition 8.

Soulforce is collaborating with individual organizers and groups, including Join the Impact, to issue this call. Jeff Lutes, Soulforce Executive Director, drafted the call to action which has been signed already by several community leaders, including Cleve Jones, who is the founder of the NAMES/AIDS Memorial Quilt, and was a historical consultant on the Academy Award winning film MILK.

Working closely with other leaders, Soulforce organizer Chris Hubble created a new website,, to assist in educating the public on nonviolent civil disobedience. The website launched Monday and is designed to help community members learn about the philosophy, practice and history of nonviolent strategies and connect with others locally who are interested in organizing nonviolent civil disobedience. This website is a collaborative effort and is intended to be reflective of the diverse spectrum of approaches to nonviolent resistance. It is also envisioned as an open-source set of learning tools for grassroots organizers. The materials provided suggest a simple outline for facilitating a training in nonviolence which organizers may adopt or adapt to fit their needs.

The call to action specifically promotes nonviolent tactics. Community leaders are urged to sign the call to action at and to begin training in their own communities immediately. For questions pertaining to the new training website, please contact Christopher Hubble at

Time to Take It to the Streets

An urgent national call for nonviolent direct action to achieve full equality
Today, we issue a national call for social change through the ongoing use of nonviolent direct action - including civil disobedience when necessary - until the federal government extends equal protection in all fifty states on matters governed by civil law.

Efforts to achieve full civil equality - such as the right to marry the person we love, the right to care for our families, the right to nondiscrimination in the workplace, and the right to serve openly in the military - have awakened a sleeping giant within the soul of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) community. We are tired of agonizing political setbacks, token change, defending ourselves against charges of moral inferiority, and being told to "wait" in the land we love while liberation occurs in other countries. Martin Luther King, Jr. acknowledged that real change takes time; yet he also warned against the "tranquilizing drug of gradualism" and instructed the oppressed to demand equality now - not on the convenient time schedule of those doing the oppressing. Legislative efforts toward equality, while essential, have proven woefully inadequate under current circumstances.

Today, we affirm that nonviolent strategies such as marches, vigils, demonstrations, public protests, and civil disobedience, seek to create what Dr. King called "healthy tension".. This constructive tension forces those who perpetuate injustice, and society as a whole, to pause, reflect, and consider the ugliness of their prejudices and the indecency embodied in their discrimination. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. King wrote: "Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored."

In addition to Dr. King's legacy, we remember that those of Mahatma Gandhi, Bayard Rustin, Oscar Romero, Cesar Chavez, the Velvet Revolution, and countless others are deeply rooted in United States and world history. Nonviolent resistance continues to play a vital role in undermining the power of repressive political regimes.

We call on community organizers, activists, movement leaders, and all LGBTQ people across the nation to begin training the masses in nonviolent direct action. We have prepared a new online resource - - to assist in this vital task. As we resist injustice, we must avoid violence of the fist, tongue, and heart and remember that in truth we are challenging unjust systems, not people. In due course, we seek to be in community with those from whom we currently find ourselves divided.

We, the undersigned, call on LGBTQ and allied people everywhere to act with strength and integrity. Today, we reclaim nonviolent direct action as part of that process. Let's understand that the vision of equality belongs to all of us and we are each responsible for taking action in pursuit of that dream. We all have the faculty to be powerful, influential, and prevailing. Let's reinvest in our movement for social change and believe in our own capacity to effect that change. Let's allow the boldness and hunger for justice to grow and contagiously spread to others.

Let's take it to the streets.