Election Joy and Sorrow

The good news is that after November 4th—okay, after January 20th—the grown-ups will replace the adolescents in the White House, and America can begin the arduous work needed to repair the wreckage that was once our country.


The bad news, of course, is that anti-gay initiatives around the country passed. The defeat in California of “No on Proposition 8” was particularly painful, because early polls suggested a win for the good guys. However,  opponents of equality spent millions of dollars on misleading advertisements and outright lies, and they were aided by the vastly expanded turnout of what pundits delicately call “low-information” voters.


We all know that this is just a setback—that history, and the attitudes of younger voting cohorts make equality inevitable. But it will be later rather than sooner, and it’s a painful loss for those who worked so hard to defeat this hateful effort. My son was among those working to defeat Proposition 8, and among his efforts was a letter I want to share, because it puts a personal face on what can sometimes devolve into an abstract argument about rights. 


Stephen’s best friend lives in Berkeley with her husband, also a close friend. She told him that she could no longer talk politics with her father, that he was unwilling to hear any argument and would definitely be voting for McCain and most probably be voting for Prop 8.  Stephen asked if it would help if he made a personal appeal to him in a letter, and she said it couldn’t hurt. He shared the letter with me, and agreed that I could share it with the readers of the Word.


Dear Dr. [redacted]


I hope you remember me. I am your daughter Marites’ best friend, as she is mine. We met 23 years ago while we were at the University of Cincinnati studying architecture, and over the years have developed the deepest affinity for each other. Marites, Keith, Anika and Teah are as much my family as my own flesh and blood. Many years ago, I came to your house in Ashtabula a couple of times and we shared dinner and conversation. We have also had a couple of brief exchanges at Marites’ house in Berkeley over the years since you moved out to California.


I am writing to ask you a personal favor. I am writing to ask you to vote NO on Proposition 8 on the ballot this November. As you may or may not be aware, Prop 8 would remove the right of same-sex couples to marry. In essence, it would render me a 2nd class citizen in our shared state of California.


I remember stories that Marites would tell me of growing up in Ohio and feeling different because she didn’t “look like” everyone else, because her family was from the Philippines. I’m sure when you moved to Ohio for the opportunity it gave you, you had no idea what it would be like, and what kind of reception you would get from the people there. It must have been tough, speaking with an accent and looking so different from most of the people in that rural community. But you soldiered on, for the well being of your family, to raise them and provide for them and to give them a chance to flourish here. We all want that same chance. And it doesn’t matter how different we are culturally or racially, we share a common humanity.


Marites tells me that for a variety of reasons, she thinks that you are opposed to same-sex marriage. I’m not sure if you think that being gay is somehow a choice, but if you do I would ask: do you believe that you chose to be straight? That, assuming there was no hatred or prejudice in the world, you could have chosen to be gay instead? That it is only for the betterment of society that you chose to enter into marriage and have children? Or perhaps you don’t think orientation is a choice, but a challenge God gave to certain people, and that they must deny who they are? Why do you think a loving god would do such a thing? Perhaps you think it is “against nature” despite the overwhelming scientific consensus to the contrary?


There are a lot of reasons I could give you to vote against Prop 8. That it is as wrong to discriminate against someone for their orientation as it is their race or ethnic background. That it is no threat to your marriage. Do you realize that Keith and Marites would not have been allowed to get married in a previous era? Surely, you must think that that was wrong and racist. Even if your church is opposed, you know that this has nothing to do with anyone’s church. Not a single church will be forced to perform any marriage with which they disagree. This only has to do with equality before the law, and insuring that all citizens are treated equally.


There are so many good reasons, but I will ask you in the name of the deep love and friendship that I have with your daughter, and the love that she has for you and me and her entire family. That, ultimately, is what opposing this measure is about. The love and respect of families, and the equal participation of all parts of the human family in our society and in our lives. Like any good family, we don’t have to always agree on every issue to see the human worth and dignity in all of us. And to act on that by opposing hatred and intolerance where we see it. Will you please join me and Marites (and Keith and so many other people) in voting NO on proposition 8?


Whatever your decision, I want to thank you for taking the time to read my letter and consider my request."