As California voters get ready to weigh in, on November 4, on Proposition 8, some unlikely heroes are rising up in the Golden State and speaking out against this outrageous attempt to roll back marriage equality for same-sex couples. All across California, straight allies - and parents, in particular - are often finding themselves moved to take an outspoken political stand for the first time in their lives. The mere thought that strangers get to vote on their children's rights is bringing some of our community's strongest defenders into the spotlight . . . and their words and actions may be the most effective tools we have to protect same-sex couples from San Francisco to San Diego, and every community in-between.
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) has been mobilizing parents and allies on the ground in California to defeat Proposition 8, which would not just deny - but take away existing - rights for committed couples. PFLAG chapters from across the country have brought critical foot soldiers to the campaign and, just as importantly, provided some of the most effective, and passionate, spokespeople imaginable: Parents who just want all of their sons and daughters to be treated the same.
Last week, Sam Thoron, the past National President of PFLAG (and a current board member of the organization), joined his wife Julia in speaking out against the ballot initiative. The Thorons, who have a lesbian daughter, urged Californians to reject this unprecedented attempt to divide families and strip away the rights of a specific community of California citizens. "All we have ever wanted for our daughter is that she be treated with the same dignity and respect as her brothers -- with the same freedoms and responsibilities as every other Californian," Sam says the first anti-8 ad to hit the airwaves. "My wife and I never treated our children differently, we never loved them any differently and now the law doesn't treat them differently, either."
The Thorons' love and support for their daughter has, in turn, also inspired and empowered other parents to speak up. Their stories, letters, emails and phone calls have been pouring into the PFLAG offices in Washington, D.C., along with questions about what they can to stop the attack on their kids.
"This past July, there were two marriages in my family: My own and my son's," Richard Schoenenberger wrote. "I've been a widower for over 20 years. On July 10th, at the young age of 81, I married Joanne (a mere 78). My son Michael has been with his partner for over 20 years. On July 26th, he and Jason were married. . . . Equality, Truth, and the Love I share with my family: Values. That's why," he said, he is speaking out against Proposition 8.
For the first time, many parents are facing the very real possibility that their children will not just be discriminated against, but actually have their weddings invalidated and their rights, previously affirmed by the law, now taken away.
"[My daughter] Corinne has fallen in love and will be married next summer during our family reunion," Kathryn Hall, of PFLAG's Tulare-Kings County chapter in California, recently wrote. "As her mother I have the great happiness of helping plan the wedding, assisted by the facility event planner, family members and millions of others."
"California voters, you see, are actually the wedding planners with the most control," she said. "They will decide whether or not to deny my daughter, and so many other Californians, the right to marry who they love. And as a parent, it seems strange that so many people who do not know my child can have such an impact on her life--after all, neither she nor her brother asked my permission before they became engaged. They are old enough and responsible enough to make these decisions on their own, without maternal or governmental interference."
In Oakland, the Matsumura family is speaking out, too. Ken and Molleen's daughter, Elly, married her partner in San Francisco in 2004, only to have the marriage revoked by the state shortly thereafter. Now, they hold out hope that, this time, Elly will be able to have her relationship recognized once and for all.
"All loving parents hope to be able to pass their values on to their children," the Matsumuras recently wrote. "All loving parents hope to see their child secure in the love of their chosen partner in life, if the child chooses to marry. We know we won't be around forever, and we hope that when we're gone, someone who loves our child as much as we do will be there for her. That means someone who can visit her in the hospital, tell the doctors what to do if she can't speak for herself, share their earnings and insurance and support each other in building financial security, share a name if they so choose, take equal responsibility for loving and educating both their children."
In fact, it may be parents who are able to best make the case for marriage equality. Who, after all, knows what's best for their kids more than they do? These amazing allies are bringing powerful, passionate and personal pleas for dignity to the campaign to defeat Proposition 8.
These warriors won't back down when it comes to their families. They're even enlisting the help of Jane Austen.
"Austen's words," Hall said, "express my sentiments on Proposition 8:"
"Allow me to say...the arguments with which you have supported this...have been as frivolous as...ill-judged. You have widely mistaken my character, if you think I can be worked on by persuasions such as these."
Today, a new wave of advocates - political poets, if you will - are coming into their own, called to action by a nasty attack on the people they love . . . and they're determined to win this one for their kids.
For more information on defeating California's Proposition 8, click here.