Below is an open letter from Molly McKay, Marriage Equality USA Media Director, to the LGBTI Community and Activists reflecting on the California Supreme Court hearing and where we go from here.
Hey Folks -
I know we are united in spirit and purpose to bringing marriage equality back to California.
I join in the sense of disappointment in the Justices' questions and leanings yesterday, but we could not have asked for better advocates and our amazing legal team of Terry Stewart from the City & County of San Francisco, Shannon Minter from the National Center for Lesbian Right, Michael Maroko from Gloria Allred’s office, and Ray Marshall representing our amici (friends of the court) who were inspiring and totally righteous. I think we need to keep in mind the CA Supremes did the right thing last year by declaring that marriage was a fundamental right of citizenship and that the LGBT community was a suspect class and made marriage equality the law of the land until the nefarious Proposition 8 was passed by 2% of the voters. The 2008 historic marriage decision from this Court continues to resonant and help set the stage in support of our position in a critical way.
Additionally, the California Legislature has already stood with us now 3 times (2005, 2007 and again in 2009 with the resolution supporting the invalidation of Prop 8.) Even Governor Schwarzenegger, Senator Diane Feinstein and Attorney General Brown have all finally seen the light and are vocal advocates for marriage equality. The state is ripe for us to step up and finish this chapter in the long history of our struggle for equality.
We have to face the facts, that this last phase is on US, you and me. No, it's not fair. No, we shouldn't have our civil rights up for a vote. No, we shouldn't have to ask 18 million Californians for permission to marry the person we love - Yes, this is totally ridiculous. But, we have to accept that these are the cards that are likely to be dealt. Life is often unfair, but the pivotal question is - what will we do about it? Getting angry and resentful doesn't win friends or influence others to our side - we must instead, get determined, get focused, get grounded, get mobilized, and see this crisis and an opportunity of righting this past wrong together. Hope springs eternal that the Court will still do the right thing, but let's adopt a "belt and suspenders' approach- time to roll up our sleeves and start planting our grassroots community garden today.
In 2008, history called for us to defeat Prop 8 and had we waged the campaign that we are all committed to now - we would not be in this situation. So....as my sewing teacher always said, 'if you don't have time to do it right, you always have time to do it over.' We've gone through the "woulda, coulda, shoulda" phase and now is the time to mobilize.
We have the power to create the most creative, innovative, fun, inclusive, empowered and courageous campaign for equality that the world has ever seen. We have the chance to get out and talk about love, family, truth, justice in the broader frame of social and economic justice for all people. Fate has anointed our generation with the task of seeing this slice of civil rights struggle into the history books - are we ready to answer that call now?
The Eve of Justice events that took place on March 4th in 35 cities around the state are an example of what we can accomplish collectively. Together we stood with our families, our allies, our fellow organizations, shoulder to shoulder for justice, for community for peace. Let's be ready to do that again after the California Supreme Court rules.
If it goes our way - let us be graceful and joyous winners ready to reach out our hands to those who are still unsure and invite them to the wedding banquet so they can see that there is just more for everyone and nothing is taken from them. If we lose, let us be graceful and determined love warriors ready to gather signatures, supporters and new allies - let us transform our opponents with love, not further entrench them in their positions, but reach out (and reach in) and continue to be a peaceful stand for the vision of justice and equality we want to see in the world.
Let's not just pour into the streets for another rally (although coming together that evening is the right thing to do)- but let's follow that up with something even more powerful. Let's all make a commitment to do the challenging work of spending the next few months walking door to door in our neighborhoods, to attending non-marriage equality community events and being ambassadors for our community, to offer allies tangible ways to get engaged and take action with us.
It is up to us to be the change we want to see in the world - and I ask everyone to think long and hard about what that change should look like before you take actions that will affect all of us in the community - for the good, or for the bad. The people I saw screaming back at the Yes on 8 people outside the courtroom were prominently featured in mainstream media as portraying our community. If you can't remain a calm stance for good...you are not helping and I believe you are harming our cause.
We have everything we need to knit together the passion, energy and existing organizations and coalitions across the state. Thanks to our brilliant techies for the cause, we have a new coalition website that is built on a model of the United Nations at www.equalitycentral.org.
I urge everyone to move their organization into that site today- it is still under construction - but we can all help in ensuring that it becomes the thriving village, a beehive of grassroots action so we can communicate freely with each other, share ideas and plug new recruits into the best opportunity that matches their talents, resources and interests. I also urge everyone to get familiar with the amazing equality hub created by Courage Campaign modeled on the my.barackobama.com technology that allows us all to access the most incredible grassroots Voter ID program. Also, attend a Camp Courage training if you can - it has something wonderful for new and veteran activists - they will be training in Fresno this weekend. I urge you to order your "I Do" materials at www.letcaliforniaring.org, MarriageEquality.org and www.WhiteKnot.org etc to ensure that you are wearing and generating "marriage equality moments" at every opportunity.
We can't live by internet alone, so Marriage Equality USA will host a statewide call on March 18th at noon and again at 7pm to allow us to brainstorm and share ideas, projects, plans, trainings and give feedback for building and expanding the statewide coalition and regional networks. For call-in information, register for this call, go here to register.
We encourage everyone to come to the Fresno City Hall (2600 Fresno Street) on the first Saturday after the Prop 8 decision in a “Meet in the Middle” day of action. For more information, go to MeetintheMiddle4Equality.com to show our support our LGBTI family and supporters in the Central Valley and to illustrate we are all in this together.
In this next phase of the movement, we all collectively own it - and no one organization runs the show or calls all the shots - we are committed to a transparent and accountable flow of communication and action. Getting organized at the grassroots level is we can right this past wrong together. Marriage Equality USA’s report “Respect Empower Include” highlights some amazing grassroots organizations and the amazing team we can create if we come together. We all need to keep our egos in check and realize we need to work together, we have to dig deep and stay committed to working out any internal conflicts that get in our way of collective action- if we are divided we will never win! We need to spend way less time arguing with each other about who is the leader and whose logo goes where and way more time - just getting out there and doing the work of having persuasion conversations with fair-minded Californians - with inviting interested leaders, organizations, parents, neighbors and everyone who has been chomping at the bit to help. "Many hands make light work" and there is more than enough Love, Recognition, Glory and Opportunity for everyone who wants to be involved and make change. The only mistake we can make is to undervalue the power we each have to be the change we want to see in the world.
Lastly, this is a marathon not a sprint. We need to embrace being mindful about how we do this work. We need to prioritize our health, our marriage, our friendships and ensure we are doing this work from a grounded place of abundance, joy and connection. No more "Ready, Fire, Aim." Let us ensure that we take the time to ensure everyone is at the table, let's ensure that we focus on how each of us can add value - we need to stay committed to the collective good and if we get fried, we need to step back, re-group and come back when we can do this work from a positive space. We need to stay committed to the time-tested and American tradition of Non-Violence in all our activities. I'm attaching the Marriage Equality USA policy adopting non-violence as our method of making lasting change. I encourage others to modify and adopt a similar policy so it is crystal clear that no matter what happens we will stand resolved and committed as peaceful agents of change. I understand Soulforce and MCC are organizing teach-ins on Non-Violence methods and I hope we can all support that important work.
"We have learned from our mistakes, picked ourselves up off the floor, we have learned just what it takes, now we are stronger than before. And we are standing side by side - we have the courage now, to win. We have come to far and we've got the scars and we are never going back into the shadow again. I am a Giant and you will not make me fall and you will not make me crawl, I am a Giant and I'm not alone, winds of change have blown and the walls come tumbling down." Melissa Etheridge - song: I am a Giant.
We are at a crossroads moment in our history. Will you join me in re-enlisting for another tour of duty as a Love Warrior? Will you stay engaged to see this through until it is done? If so, join us at MarriageEquality.org or another grassroots group that appeals to you and let's all work in coalition together we will march on as a gentle, angry people onward to victory - wiser and stronger. Together, yes we can.
Marriage Equality USA Media Director