Saturday, January 17, 2009

UPDATE: Rev. Eric Lee Vs. Rev. Rick Warren

As you may recall, the Courage Campaign set up a petition for everyone to sign for Rick Warren to accept Rev. Eric Lee's invitation to an open debate on same-sex marriage (see post). Rev. Lee is the President/CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Greater Los Angeles Area. News is about to break in regards to the development of the debate - stay tuned to Unite The Fight!

UPDATE: Courage Campaign issued the following press release:

Courage Campaign Renews Debate Challenge to Rev. Rick Warren on Prop. 8, Marriage Equality

Previous Invitations for Public Forum Have Gone Unanswered by Saddleback Church

LOS ANGELES -Renewing the call of more than 25,000 Californians, the Reverend Eric Lee, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) of Greater Los Angeles, today urged the Reverend Rick Warren, Senior Pastor at Saddleback Church in Orange County, to accept the Courage Campaign's invitation to debate his views on Proposition 8 and marriage equality.

"As a result of your strong public stand on same-sex marriage, we as clergy and spiritual leaders are obligated to present the issues surrounding same-sex marriage to the people of this state, many of whom are gay and lesbian," wrote Rev. Lee in the letter to rev. Warren. "We are responsible for healing, for building bridges, for creating community, and not for dividing."

The Reverend Rick Warren was chosen by President-elect Barack Obama to deliver the invocation to the inaugural, an event expected to be viewed by millions nationwide.


In an effort to give Warren an opportunity to explain his views on marriage equality, the Courage Campaign invited him to a public debate on same-sex marriage with Reverend Eric Lee, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) of Greater Los Angeles. The invitation was signed by more than 25,000 Courage Campaign members and delivered in person on Christmas Eve to Warren's church in Orange County.

The invitation stated "As Americans who believe in equal rights for all, we would like to invite you to a debate about Proposition 8 and same-sex marriage... While we strongly disagree with your views, we also strongly believe that your views must be debated in a public forum."

The invitation has not gotten a response.

"While President-elect Obama has chosen to ignore the troubling beliefs of the man who will spiritually usher in his presidency, Californians cannot and should not ignore Rick Warren," said Rick Jacobs, founder and chair of the Courage Campaign. "We cannot ignore Rick Warren's fervent support for Proposition 8 or his mobilization of thousands of Saddleback Church evangelical Christians to enshrine discrimination into our state constitution."

The complete text Rev. Lee's letter is below. A pdf version of the letter is available upon request.


January 13, 2009

Rev. Rick Warren
Senior Pastor
Saddleback Church
1 Saddleback Parkway
Lake Forest, CA 92630

Dear Rev. Warren:

On Christmas Eve, my colleagues at the Courage Campaign delivered to your office an invitation to debate me here in California about our respective stances on same-sex marriage. That letter is attached. It was accompanied by the electronic signatures over 25,000 members of the Courage Campaign community here in California, which by the way includes my own father.

As a result of your strong public stand on same-sex marriage, we as clergy and spiritual leaders are obligated to present the issues surrounding same-sex marriage to the people of this state, many of whom are gay and lesbian. We are responsible for healing, for building bridges, for creating community, and not for dividing.

I recall the words of the late Coretta Scott King, who said, "Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union. A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages."

While you have not responded to the Courage Campaign invitation, I count on you to respond favorably to me as fellow clergy. Prior to the inauguration, where I expect to see you, let's schedule a date in February or March for our public discussion here in our state I would very much like to be able to announce at our Martin Luther King Memorial Dinner on January 15 that you have responded favorably to this invitation.

Very Best Regards,
Rev. Eric P. Lee

Friday, January 16, 2009

Yes! on Equality - Official Marriage Equality Ballot Initiative for 2010

As a community, we do not have time to wait and see if the Supreme Court upholds Prop 8 or not. We need to prepare in advance. If we are to fight for marriage equality by repealing Prop 8 through the ballot, it is imperative we begin obtaining enough signatures now for a 2010 initiative in order to make it in time.

Yes! on Equality is the official site for the 2010 campaign and needs your signature on the petition.

According to their website, this campaign "is dedicated to the individual. It’s also why we’ve eliminated the burden of board members, bureaucracy, and nonsensical regulation that have plagued other organizations and attempts. This is a campaign about you." This is a far cry from the No on 8 Campaign, which was plagued by politics and bad strategy and handicapped by a deaf ear to its own community.

This time around, there won't be a barricade between your involvement and the campaign. Take Action!

Love, Honor, Cherish Files Brief Against Prop 8 with CA Supreme Court

It's all about Love, Honor, Cherish today. The grassroots organization issued the following press release:


January 16, 2009 -- Love Honor Cherish, a grass roots organization dedicated to repealing Proposition 8, is using a unique argument in a brief it filed yesterday with the California Supreme Court.

The brief joins many others in support of a lawsuit filed after the election by Equality California, ACLU, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. That lawsuit seeks to overturn Prop 8 by arguing that a fundamental right like marriage cannot be taken away from a targeted minority by a simple majority vote on a constitutional amendment. Instead, the lawsuit argues, to make such a drastic change the Constitution should have gone through the “revision” process – which takes more time and requires the state legislature to approve the proposed change before it is put on the ballot.

“While most of the other friend-of-the-court briefs are focusing on the differences between amending and revising the Constitution, ours explains the effect the election process had on gay and lesbian Californians,” said John Henning, Executive Director of Love Honor Cherish. “The process itself diminished us and our relationships.”


The brief argues that gays and lesbians were harmed because gay couples were forced to decide whether and when to get married based on the looming vote on a ballot proposition -- something straight couples have never had to do -- and because the dignity of existing marriages was devalued by the specter of Prop 8.

“The mere fact that Proposition 8 was on the ballot deprived gay and lesbian couples of the equality this Court held they deserved,” the brief argues. “These indignities do violence to the principles on which our constitutional system of government was founded.”

Henning said the Court should rule that damaging campaigns about fundamental rights like Prop 8 should not be allowed.

“The Court can prevent this kind of harm in the future only if they invalidate Prop 8 now,” he said.

While the brief filed yesterday will help the chances that the California Supreme Court overturns Prop 8, Henning said that because of the critical importance of restoring marriage rights for gay and lesbian Californians, the gay community and its allies need to prepare now for a ballot initiative in 2010 that would repeal Prop 8.

“If the Supreme Court rules against us and there is to be a new ballot campaign in November 2010, people have to be ready on the ground this summer to start collecting petition signatures,” Henning said. “The Court most likely will not rule before summer, so if we wait for them to rule before starting to prepare, we’ll be too late.”

Love Honor Cherish is committed to preparing for a 2010 ballot initiative, educating the public about the freedom to marry and building alliances with other organizations and individuals. The group formed in May 2008 to work against Prop 8 and raised over half a million dollars for the No on 8 campaign. At the same time, Love Honor Cherish mounted its own outreach and media efforts, with a strong focus on speaking the truth about marriage and developing a new generation of leaders around the issue. For more information visit

The brief was filed on behalf of Love Honor Cherish by the law firm of Bate Peterson Deacon Zinn & Young, LLP. A copy of the brief is available on the Love Honor Cherish website.

Report on the Gloria Allred/Andy Pugno Debate

Steve Zlick of Love, Honor, Cherish has written a guest post for Unite the Fight. Steve attended the debate Wednesday night between Gloria Allred and Andy Pugno, general counsel for Protect Marriage/Yes on 8. Here is his first-hand account.


Wednesday night, the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy hosted a debate on Prop 8 between the forces of good and evil. To be specific, it was Gloria Allred, attorney for landmark plaintiffs Robin Tyler and Diane Olson (present among the roughly hundred members of the audience) in their same-sex marriage rights suit against the State of California -vs.- Andy Pugno, general counsel for on Prop 8. Judy Miller of ABC news served as moderator.

The debate concerned the legal issues now before the California Supreme Court in pending lawsuits seeking the repeal of Proposition 8. As passed by voters on November 4, 2008, Prop 8 amends the state constitution such that only marriage between one man and one woman is recognized in California. The three legal questions being considered by the Court, and which were the subject of last night’s debate, are: a) Is Prop 8 an Amendment to OR a revision of the California Constitution? b) Does the passage of Prop 8 violate the separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government? and c) If Prop 8 is upheld, is its effect retroactive in regards to the same-sex marriages legally performed in California?

As objective as I tried to be during the debate, it seemed to me that Gloria pretty much mopped the floor with Andy. It wasn’t merely that he was soft-spoken and tenuous in comparison to Ms. Allred’s somewhat strident confidence, but the points made by Mr. Pugno for the "Yes on 8" side seemed to rely exclusively on the omnipotent right of the Will of The People to be expressed in the California Constitution, for which he provided no legal justification. Pugno repeatedly asserted that the electorate has a right to determine what our constitution says, and dismissed as insignificant the limitations on that right when it comes to revisions versus amendments.

Indeed, both sides acknowledged the current Supreme Court case pretty much hinges on whether Prop 8 was a revision disguised as an amendment, and no one quite knows where the Supreme Court will find that line to be. Allred asserted the Proposition is a revision because its limitations on the judiciary's rights to protect citizens under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution amount to a shift in the basic framework of government. Pugno proffered that Prop 8 is a mere amendment because the people have always had an endemic right to correct the judiciary.


As expected, his main legal reliance was on the 1973 voter amendment which reversed the Supreme Court’s finding that the death penalty was cruel and unusual punishment. It was a strikingly similar work-around to the current case (i.e, if the Court finds something unconstitutional, the voters simply change the constitution to say it’s not). But Allred adroitly pointed out the big difference: In 1973, the Supreme Court retained the power to determine death penalty matters on a case-by-case basis, but Prop 8 utterly strips the judiciary of its powers in regards to marriage rights.

Still, that voter change to the definition of cruel and unusual punishment and its limitation on the judiciary was upheld by the Supreme Court 35 years ago. The question remains where the Court will stand on the slightly different issue today.

Allred alleged Prop 8 did nothing to change the constitution’s fundamental guarantees of liberty, privacy and equal protection rights, which were the basis of the May 2008 Supreme Court ruling in favor of equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. Pugno had no response to the denial of fundamental liberty and privacy rights to a protected minority group - other than to insist the will of the people can overrule such rights. When the moderator asked Pugno if the voters could by simple majority ban interracial marriage or restore the institution of slavery, he had no retort other than that the federal constitution would prohibit such things.

Pugno was similarly evasive throughout the evening. When questioned if same-sex marriages would be nullified if Prop 8 were declared retroactive, he gave an answer worthy of Bill Clinton in his technical definition of "retroactive." The marriages would simply not be recognized, he said, but it would not be as if they had never happened - and thus the effects of Prop 8 would not be "retroactive."

Andy did not score many points with the audience when he raised the issue of child molesters as an example of an area where voters had the authority to limit privacy rights (in requiring registration and neighborhood-notifications). It may have been a pertinent example, but it demonstrated an amazingly tin ear when it came to the sensitivities of his audience. I don’t think he purposely meant to insult the crowd, but it was a callous error on his part.

Likewise, he didn’t come off well in dodging the moderator’s question of whether he personally thought equal marriage rights in California were inevitable. To support his assertion that they were not, he gave examples limited to the current state of the world in which a small minority of nations now acknowledge such rights.

In fact, it was nearly ludicrous how Pugno ignored the march of progress throughout history - and Gloria Allfred took him to task for it. She used this opening to launch into a stirring oration on California's historic role as a beacon of liberty, consistently at the forefront of human rights and equality. It was a wonderful note to end the evening on.

And yet I actually left feeling disappointed with how weak the Yes on 8 arguments seemed.

Still, it’s anybody’s guess how they will seem to the Supreme Court. But the debate left me more confident than ever that Proposition 8 will be overturned by the Court, in a decision expected mid-year by the same Justices who ruled equal marriages rights fundamental to our constitution just last May.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bishop Gene Robinson to Deliver Prayer at Obama's Inauguration

The first openly gay, ordained Episcopal bishop, Rev. Gene Robinson, has been invited by Obama's inauguration committee to give a prayer at the inauguration ceremony being held this Sunday, January 18.

Robinson had expressed distaste for Obama's pick of Rick Warren to give the invocation, saying, "it was like a slap in the face." The controversial Warren had compared homosexuality to rape and incest.

Despite his differences with Rick Warren, Robinson has accepted the invitation, stating
"It's important for any minority to see themselves represented in some way. Whether it be a racial minority, an ethnic minority, or, in our case, a sexual minority -- just seeing someone like you up front matters."

The inaugural committee stated that it was always their plan to include the bishop.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Resolution - A Success

This past Sunday, Equal Roots hosted The Resolution, an action fair to encourage the community to continue its fight for equal rights and to stand up against DOMA by giving them direction actions that they could perform on the spot.

A part of a nationwide cry against the Defense of Marriage Act, many local groups were involved in The Resolution, including Marriage Equality USA, ACT UP NOW, and Love, Honor, Cherish among many.

"We reached our goal of almost 2,000 over the course of the day," said Equal Roots Co-Founder Matt Palazzolo. "I think we had about 700 at the show and about 1,000 over the course of the day at the Action Fair."

Among the many actions attendees participated in were post cards to Obama asking for his continued support to repeal DOMA, "Gays Only" and "Straights Only" stickers to place on drinking fountains and bathroom stalls, and a video booth where couples could give their stories about how they met.

Later in the day, a live version of "Prop 8: The Musical" was performed.

For more pictures, videos and first-hand accounts, go to the Equal Roots Facebook Group.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

ACT UP NOW Weekly Meeting

There is a General Meeting Wednesday, January 14th. Please be there at 7:30pm sharp. We will be discussing important issues, including ACTIONS. Here are the details:

Hollywood Lutheran Church (Supporter of No on 8)
1733 N. New Hampshire
(between Hollywood & Franklin in Los Feliz)
Los Angeles, CA 90027.

Join our Facebook group HERE. Help with the agenda by registering and visiting the ACT UP NOW Wiki, located at

Forward this information to any friend or groups of friends!


UPDATE: A report is in the works for yesterday's The Resolution. Stay Tuned!

This Saturday, January 10th, nation wide events are being staged against the Defense of Marriage Act. Here in Los Angeles, Equal Roots is hosting the event with many other groups involved, and there will be lots to do. (Facebook Event Page)

Be Entertained:
-Featuring celebrity guest appearances by Peter Paige, Alec Mapa, Wilson Cruz, Doug Spearman, Daryl Stephens, Bruce Daniels, Tony Tripoli, Barrett Foa, Brea Grant, Ashley Love...
-And many more...

Make a direct and immediate impact at the Action Fair:
-Send a postcard to Obama
-Film your personal story
-Send messages to legislators
-Sign petitions
-And much more!

Help repeal DoMA:
-Sign an open letter to Obama
-Gather in solidarity

Jeffrey Prang, Mayor of West Hollywood - Confirmed to speak.

Saturday, January 10, 2009
Time: 2:00pm - 7:00pm
Location: West Hollywood Park
Street: 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard
City/Town: West Hollywood, CA (Google Map)

To find out what's happening in your city, go to Join the Impact to get involved.