Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Today's letter - A Long Shot

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger -

I am writing to you to ask you to sign AB 43, even though I know you never will.

I need to know that you have heard from people like me who are directly afflicted; that emboldening the Opponents of Equality will cause more government-sanctioned discrimination; and that showing a lack of leadership on this issue will look pretty silly when California eventually ends domestic apartheid. Your domestic apartheid.

I fully understand that you want to "let the people decide," and you will undoubtedly veto this bill. I just want you to know who you’re throwing under the bus when you do.


Sincerely,

Monday, July 30, 2007

Today's letter - Happy Birthday!

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger -

Happy 60th Birthday!

You will soon be given the opportunity to stop discrimination in this state by signing AB 43 and supporting marriage equality. Please take it. The people will forever applaud your leadership.

Best wishes for many more,

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Today's letter - Thank you for Writing

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger -

I received an unsigned letter from your Office of Constituent Affairs dated July 23, 2007, thanking me for my letter regarding AB 43. The letter states "Governor Schwarzenegger does not generally take a position on legislation until a bill has reached his desk."

On February 16 you told a YMCA Youth and Government conference “I wouldn't sign [AB 43] because the people of California have voted on that issue.”

In a March 13 article in The San Jose Mercury News ("Schwarzenegger’s Support for Gay Rights Only Goes So Far") your communications director, Adam Mendelsohn, presented a very sophisticated explanation of your position on AB 43, along with a promise that you would veto it.

The National Association of Evangelicals of Northern California ("NAENORCAL") writes "This is a great victory for evangelicals. Thank you for writing the governor and asking for a veto. Apparently this bill is now dead on arrival!"

What I want to know is why you seem to read and act on letters from NAENORCAL and other Opponents of Equality, yet toss me and my family off with a form letter featuring what seems like a lie?

You have a unique platform to lead on this issue, and – like me - the people of California deserve more than lip service on this issue.

Yours,

The Governor Responds - Thank you for writing

I got the first response from the Governor's office today. It was on fancy stationery but they got my address wrong and it wasn't signed - just a blank spot.

I assume this first thank-you was in response to my first letter, where I reference the February statement the Governor made about his plans to veto AB 43.

July 23, 2007

Dear Mr. Smith,

Thank you for writing to Governor Schwarzenegger regarding AB 43. The Governor appreciate you voicing your opinions on proposed legislation affecting our state.

Governor Schwarzenegger does not generally take a position on legislation until a bill has reached his desk, because it can change significantly from the time it is introduced to the time it is finalized. For the current session, the California Legislature has until September 14, 2007, to pass legislation and the Governor has until Octoboer 14, 2007, to sign or veto proposed bills.

You may continue to follow this and any other bill under consideration by lawmakers at the Official California Legislative WEbsite: www.leginfo.ca.gov. You may also read any legislative messages from the Governor at his website: www.governor.ca.gov.

Again, the Governor appreciates your interest in California's future. An informed and engaged citizenry is important to effective government in our state.

Sincerely,


Office of Constituent Affairs

Friday, July 27, 2007

Today's letter - Upgrading Domestic Partnerships

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger -

We've had AB 205, the Domestic Partnership law, here in California for long enough to know that it's time to upgrade to proper marriage.

Case in point: Vermont has had Domestic Partnership since 2000. Legislators there are starting to say that it is time for a change - to marriage.

Just this week (with elections looming), Vermont House Speaker Gaye Symington said "I think for many Vermonters the question has been when, not so much as whether, we would eventually recognize same-sex union through marriage," and Vermont Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin said, "I think now most Vermonters would acknowledge [Civil Unions] haven't impacted their families in any way, shape or form."

A January 2006 poll in Vermont found 53 percent of respondents favored replacing the "civil unions" with marriage. And that was eighteen months ago!

I'm tired of being behind the curve on civil liberty. I wish we had marriage parity in California like they have in Massachusetts, Canada and Spain – and soon perhaps Vermont. Please sign AB 43 and tell the people to say no to discrimination.

Yours,

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Today's letter - hate kills

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger -

Opponents of AB 43 say that hating gay people is necessary to keep their kids from becoming gay. Apparently the terror of having the snot beaten out of them will discourage lusty thoughts.

We know the statistics: homophobia causes the teen suicide rate to be four times higher. 50% of gay teens suffer verbal or physical abuse at home. More than 16% of hate crimes are committed against gays. Hate is not a 'deterrent to gayness.' Rather it is hate, terror and murder.

The ban on gay marriage is pretty basic homophobia. Please sign AB 43 and support gay marriage so when they decide this issue, the people will have a leader who says "NO" to hate.

Truly,

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Today's letter - Marriage makes Cents

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger -

I just read again today about how much it costs California to ban gays from marriage. There is the $16 Billion windfall in tourism and commerce, then an ongoing $24 Million each year by closing access to means-tested public benefits.

Granted, the numbers are a bit old: the $16 Billion is from a 2004 Forbes study and a lot of that windfall has already gone to Canada and Massachusetts; the $24 Million annual savings is from a pair of co-authored projects by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law and IGLSS also in 2004. But they have been backed up again and again, because they just make sense.

As a Republican governor, it is your duty to sign AB 43 and promote fiscal responsibility in our state by advocating marriage equality.

Many thanks,

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Today's letter - Alimony case shows two systems for marriage are irrational

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger -

I'm writing to you today about the attached CNN article describing how Orange County resident Ron Garber must continue to pay alimony even though his ex-wife has entered a new legal relationship. The judge ruled that her domestic partnership is merely "cohabitation," so Mr. Garber must continue to pay $1250 a month.

Mr. Garber now understands how confusing and unfair it is to have two sets of laws governing relationships in this state. As Governor, you have an opportunity to eliminate this apartheid and reduce the size of government at the same time.

Could you please consider signing AB 43 in order to send a highly visible message that what looks like marriage and quacks like marriage ought to be called marriage?

Many thanks in advance,

Monday, July 23, 2007

Today's letter - More to Marriage than Man and Woman

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger -

A small but vocal minority have found a lucrative industry in convincing people that marriage is only between a man and a woman. They often forget the rest - that a marriage more importantly refers to two people in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law.

My own marriage - which is awkwardly called a 'domestic partnership' in California - bears this out. For us, getting married meant that we were bonded together for the rest of our lives, by family, law and God. My 80-year-old parents gave us both matching rings, and my 6-year-old niece drew us a picture of us together.

If two senior citizens and a child know that "man on woman" is a lie, why don't you?

A marriage does not begin and end with "a man and a woman" in the real world, and it should not do so in California. Please sign AB 43 and help the people of California one step closer to realizing justice and equality.

Yours,

Friday, July 20, 2007

Today's letter - Taking care of parents who take care of kids

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger -

Through my parenting group, I know several gay couples who have adopted children that were either abused or unwanted.

I wish these foster parents could get married. It would provide a stronger legal framework and access to services; it would remove the stigma attached to any child who has unwed parents; and it would reward these families with the basic dignity that 'domestic partnership' can never deliver.

These kids deserve parents who are married. I wish you would sign AB 43 and help Californians say no to discrimination.

Many thanks in advance,

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Today's letter - Fear and Ignorance

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger -

The religious right is mounting a huge campaign to meddle with my family and block gay marriage for a very long time. Anybody with the brains God gave geese knows this is driven by fear and ignorance rather than an honest reading of The Bible. Anybody who has had an opportunity to know me and my family can tell you that there's nothing wrong with gay marriage.

The problem is that a popular vote right now will turn out very poorly for California's families. It will tell generations of kids that if they are gay, there is no hope. It will tell adults that it's OK to harm homosexuals. And it makes life more difficult for my kids, and the kids of other gay and lesbian parents.

The Christian leadership has been tragically vocal on this issue, while our leadership has been silent. Letting the people decide based on the lies they have heard will harm many people for a very long time. I wish you would stand up for equality and tell the people what you think they should do about marriage. Please sign AB 43, for me, my kids, and all California.

Yours,

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Today's letter - Freedom

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger,

Every day I thank God that I have the freedom to fall in love and start a family.

If we didn't have Domestic Partnership in California, I wouldn't be living here. Thank you for making sure that all Californians have at least those freedoms.

I wish you would sign AB 43, though, and then we wouldn't need to beg and grovel for every little right that we're tossed.

Legal marriage would make a huge difference to my family and hurt nobody. So please sign AB 43.

Truly yours,

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Today's letter - EDD Form DE1-HW

In order to (legally) employ a household worker (a nanny) we have to complete a California form DE1-HW Registration Form for Employers of Household Workers.

Section "E" of the form asks for the "Type of Organization" and offers the options of [_] INDIVIDUAL [_] HUS/WIFE [_] CORPORATION [_] OTHER ________.

When I called them (916) 654-7041 they said that I should check [_] OTHER and enter Domestic Partnership and they would enter it as HUS/WIFE anyway. I said no, I want a new form.

They said the form was last updated in October 2004 and the new forms are up-to-date. But the regular form DE 1 revision 72 from August 2006 has "Hus/Wife Co-ownership" which is even more offensive.

So here is my letter to the Governor for today:


RE: EDD Form DE1-HW

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger,

I am attaching a communication that I have started with the California Employment Development Department asking for accommodation of my same-sex domestic partnership on the Registration Form for Employers of Household Workers form DE1-HW (attached). This is just one example of the scores of forms that offensively violate the constitutional ban on discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. I need your help to make sure that the form gets fixed.

The form contains options for INDIVIDUAL, HUS/WIFE, CORPORATION and OTHER. Our household is not an OTHER; I do not feel comfortable revealing my sexual orientation on this form; and if I mark INDIVDUAL or HUS/WIFE, I cannot honestly sign the form.

I wish you would sign AB 43 into law so I can get married and we don’t have to play these games with forms. Until we can get married, I would like to ask you to ask the EDD to change these forms to conform with the Constitution and my need to have my government respect my basic dignity.

Thank you for your help,

I enclosed my note to the EDD:

RE: Form DE1-HW

I have attached a form DE1-HW obtained from the Internet. Section (E) provides options for several organization types including HUS/WIFE.

As an individual in a domestic partnership who is legally prevented from being “HUS/WIFE,” this form does not accommodate me as intended by constitutional prohibitions on discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.

I don’t want to be a jerk about this, but marking [x] OTHER isn’t acceptable. The purpose of this form is not to reveal my sexual orientation but to describe the nature of the entity that is registering, which should be (by hard-won State law) indistinguishable to that of a legally married couple.

I would like to have a new form with the offensive language removed and replaced by your choice of either “SPOUSES” or “MARRIED/DOMESTIC PARTNERS.”

My intent isn’t to make more work for you, but just to make this form less offensive to me and my community. I would be happy to help you adjust it appropriately; please let me know how you would like to proceed.

Thank you,

Monday, July 16, 2007

Today's letter - Wedding Day

Today's letter was inspired by John Henning and Mike Roth's documentary film Saving Marriage. In one scene, one of the heterosexual characters affected by marriage explains "my wedding was the most wonderful day of my life. It is the most wonderful day of most couples' lives. Why would you ever take that away from people?"

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger,

Do you remember the day you got married?

Why would you deny that to somebody else?

I wish you would sign AB 43 so the people will know that "California will not discriminate."

I have attached a photo from our wedding day. Please consider what a veto on AB43 will do to my family.

Sincerely,

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Today's letter - Delayed Access

I'm starting a practice of sending a note to the Governor every day. Today's message was this, delivered with a picture of the kids.

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger,

AB 43 would allow same-sex couples to legally marry in California. You have said that you want the people and the judiciary to decide about this issue, and that you will veto this legislation. Such a veto will delay my family's access to basic equal rights. Please sign AB 43.


Thank you,

What is AB 43?

AB 43, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, is a bill that would bring us one step closer to ending the special exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage in California and providing freedom to churches who wish to perform the ceremonies.

The bill restores Sections 300 and 302 of the California Family Code to their pre-1977 language without touching Section 308.5 blocking foreign marriages that was installed by Proposition 22.

AB 43 is supported by more than 250 civil rights and professional groups, 46 of our 80 Assembly members and 22 of our 37 Senators.

The bill is on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk. He must sign or veto the bill before October 14, or it will pass into law on its own. If the bill becomes law, there will probably be an injunction pending the outcome of the marriage cases before the State Supreme Court.

He has vetoed a similar bill, AB 849, and has promised to veto this one too. His arguments have not changed: (1) the people voted for discrimination through Proposition 22 in 2000 and he cannot overturn the will of the people (2) the judiciary and the people need to work this out without the legislature (3) the bill is ineffective because of the pending cases in the Supreme Court.

I don't believe these arguments hold up. Proposition 22 was about states rights and did nothing to change gay marriage in California. It was seven years ago and does not reflect the will of the voters that set up our Constitution and twice elected the legislature that passed AB 43. Finally, the bill may be ineffective at changing the law, however a signature will send a powerfully effective message about fairness.

The Governor has to know that his excuses are pretty lame. I guess he thinks a veto will win favor with his most active donors and the current crop of gay-haters in Washington, and by distracting people with Proposition 22 and "the will of the people" he can avoid doing what is right for the people in favor of what is right for himself.

It is embarrassing to have California come just a penstroke away from providing all their couples with the same rights. Overcoming prejudice was in California's history, but now that mantle belongs to Massachusetts, Canada and Spain. It is horrible to have a Republican advocate higher taxes and additional government interference with individual lives. It is demeaning to have one person messing around with my family's legal status to suit his political agenda.

I hope that I can change Governor Schwarzenegger's mind, but even if I can only touch the minds and hearts of people who read my letters, I will have accomplished my goal.

If you can take away marriage...

The subtitle of this blog is "If you can take away marriage, you can take away anything."

What that means is that I don't think that the Opponents of Equality are really targeting the Gays. I believe that they are a coalition of groups that have their eyes set at terminating loftier prizes: abortion, affirmative action, immigrants, Arabs, Jews, public schools, evolution - the list goes on.

Remember that these are the same people who argued for, and subsequently lost, the ability to prevent different races from sharing the same schools and to keep women from voting. I think that they are actually amazed that they are finally winning on an issue, and just a bit embarrassed that it is not from an ethical or moral high ground, but just really good PR.

The fact is that gay marriage is just a pawn in this game. Randy Thomason doesn't give a toss about the gays, but the power and money he gets by terrorizing them will let him graduate to other sinister criminalizations.
I don't get the feeling that Governor Schwartzenegger is morally opposed to this bill - but the fact that he has the power to veto it gives him the ability to get other things.

Think of all the good stuff we could do with the money and energy that has been spent trying to make a group of people into second-class citizens. If we can take away marriage discrimination, we can take away all discrimination. Who would oppose that?

Contacting the Governor

Call Him!

Sacramento: 916-445-2841
Los Angeles: 213-897-0322

Write Him!

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

300 South Spring Street, Suite 16701
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Fax Him!
Sacramento Fax: 916-445-4633
Los Angeles Fax: 213-897-0319

Meet with Him!
Send a request for a meeting to any of his addresses.

Getting the bill to the Governor

The bill just passed the Senate Judiciary committee 3-1. "Arlin" from Senator Scott's office explained to me that the next step is the Fiscal committee who meets weekly through August 31. The Senate must approve and reconcile the legislation by September 14 for this fiscal year, then the Governor has 30 days (until October 14 in this case) to exercise his power to veto.

If the Governor signs it or does nothing the bill will become law January 1, 2008.

Senate (Dist. 21 - Dem)

Senator Jack Scott

Capitol Address
State Capitol
Room 2082
Sacramento, CA 94249-0001
(916) 651-4021

District Address
215 N. Marengo Ave Suite 185
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 683-0282

Getting a meeting with the Governor

I've been trying to get a meeting with the Governor the next time he's in the neighborhood. I figure that if he meets the kids, he'll have a harder time vetoing our marriage. In addition to writing to him at the Sacramento office, I've been trying to grease things with my Senator. (I tried my Assemblymember but his rep said "there are 80 members and [he] can't do that.") I'll let you know how that goes.