Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Talking Turkey" for Thanksgiving

Am about to head out "over the river and through the hills" to my brother's for Thanksgiving. But before I do, wanted to share with you this great piece that came to me from my friend and colleague, Rabbi Denise Eger -- who is one of the things I'm most thankful for this year! I think you'll find it helpful -- even if you don't live in California! Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!



The Great Thanksgiving Conversation:
Let’s talk all the way through the Holidays.

This Thanksgiving many of us will be leaving our families of choice and spending time with our families of origin. At these dinner tables thousands of conversations will be had. As you are thinking about the conversation around your family dinner table this Thanksgiving and Holiday Season, it is a great opportunity to talk to them about human rights and equality for members of the family who are LGBT. Many of us will encounter “mixed” family tables – with family members who voted on both sides of Prop 8.

Inevitably talk will turn to events of this important election, including the meaning of the passage of Proposition 8 in California.

Become a community organizer and help educate your family on marriage equality and the truth about Prop 8. This is one social justice activity you can engage in that will help all of us in the future, whether the courts overturn Prop 8 or we face another ballot measure.Proposition 8, and its approval, make it lawful to discriminate in California and is just the beginning. It will have serious implications for minorities around our country.

It is important that we continue the conversation, especially with our friends and family in to win the hearts and minds of our friends/family. Many of them will likely use the same arguments that have been used since the election - that they like their gay/lesbian friends but voted for Proposition 8 because their faith/tradition told them to do so.

We are encouraging you to have a conversation with your friends and family this Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season. In order to get the conversation started we have included some “conversation starters” as well as some facts to counter some of the arguments that are being used in defense of passing Proposition 8 in California.

Here are the key messages that confused and convinced good Californians to vote YES on 8, and the truth about them:

1. YES ON 8 MESSAGE: “Without Proposition 8, Churches would be forced to marry gay people even if it conflicts with their ideas, and they could lose their non-profit status.”

Proposition 8 unfairly blurred the boundaries between the separation of church and state, and the Yes on 8 Campaign outright lied when it said that churches would be forced to officiate at the marriage of gay men or lesbians. In fact, page 117 of the Supreme Court’s original decision last May guaranteed protections for churches to follow their faith’s teaching on the matter and to NOT officiate if that is their teaching. The YES on 8 campaign further blurred the boundary between church and state when it said that it would cause churches to lose their non-profit status. Nothing could be further from the truth. Churches would still be protected as affirmed again by the Supreme Court.The misinformation and outright lies of the Mormon and Catholic and Evangelic Christians communities caused confusion and pain among many. The state constitution should never promote one religion over another.

2. YES ON 8 MESSAGE: “Only the church can say who is married.”

This is absolutely false. As long as couples must get a marriage license from the state for their marriage to be recognized—then you can’t deny citizens from equality. The state issues licenses and you do not have to go to a rabbi, priest or minister or imam to get married. As long as there is civil marriage then it must be open to everyone. It is discrimination to do otherwise.

3. YES ON 8 MESSAGE: “Gay people don’t have civil right; they belong to African Americans.”

In America we have fought for equality for all citizens regardless of race, creed or color and in California that equality is extended to those of different sexual orientation. We have the equal protection clause that says all groups must be treated equally under the law. We are sensitive to the particular history and struggle – and sense of ownership that African Americans have over the phrase “civil rights”. However, they are called “civil rights”, “equal rights,” or “human rights” -- this bundle of rights confers dignity to all people, including gay people. Even those who go to church can understand the phrase, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. The constitution should not be used to deny or retract rights, and that is what Prop 8 did. If you start with gay people—who will be next? Blacks? Latinos? Jews? Blond haired people? Those without a college degree? Catholic?Prop 8 crossed a dangerous line by imposing the tyranny of the barely-a-majority on one group.

4. YES ON 8 MESSAGE: “Why do you need to use the term marriage? Isn’t domestic partnership or civil unions good enough?”

Separate but equal is never good enough. It didn’t work before in the United States with drinking fountains or education or in the Jim Crow era of South Africa. Marriage holds unique and special dignity for the couple and their children. Our society is not built on civil unions but is built on the idea of marriage which takes two unrelated people and makes them next of kin. There are differences in domestic partnership and marriage. The most notable difference is in the reactions of others. Everyone understands when a couple says they are married. Most do not understand when you say your partner, they misinterpret regularly. Also there is a profound difference for those who are married. Their families are accorded the proper dignity and respect in the world and there are some benefits from one’s employer that are available to married spouses that are not available to domestic partners.

5. YES on 8 MESSAGE: “The people had their say and the vote of the people should be honored.”

It is never okay for the majority to impose its will if it eliminates the rights of a minority. Our constitution and the judiciary exist to protect the minority voice from the tyranny of the majority. This is not an “activist” court. This is a conservative court – a majority is Republican -- that interpreted the Constitution and in May of 2008 declared that gay and lesbian people were protected by the equal protection clause. Now the legal case before the Supreme Court will examine whether or not the Prop 8 vote, garnered through an expensive campaign of lies and misinformation, was proper. There have been other instances in California when a ballot initiative was declared improper and/or unconstitutional including Prop. 187 (that would have denied illegal immigrants services).

6. POST-ELECTION MESSAGE: “Gay people should just get over it. It’s just not a big deal.”

One can never get over completely the wounds of oppression and discrimination. The passage of Proposition 8 hurt gay people in California – and lots of their straight friends and family, too. For a few short months gay people knew full and complete marriage equality as never before. 18,000 gay and lesbian couples got legally married. And then in an instant that equality was taken away. This is a deep wound. When justice and equality are denied, people are moved to express their cry for freedom through their first amendment rights to free speech, through protest. Engaging in peaceful rallies and marches to voice our concern is an American tradition, and helps lead to change.

These talking points ought to help you move our cause forward in your family.

Here are some additional actions you might want to take:
• Think about wearing a button that states how many months/years you and your partner have been together.
• Keep your Vote NO on Prop 8 bumper sticker on your car
• (Re)Introduce your partner as your husband/wife
• Talk about a rally or your personal participation in the No on Prop 8 campaign
• Take some wedding cake home for desert
• Take pictures to share of your family
• Ask what they think about what California did with the passing of Proposition 8
• Talk about a wedding (same-sex or opposite-sex) that your attended over the summer

We wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving….Keep the conversation going through the Holidays!Rabbi Denise L. Eger
Rev. Neil Thomas
Torie Osborn
Rodney Scott

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