Dear Prop 8 supporters,
I remember this feeling you may be feeling today, now that Prop 8 appeals have been exhausted and same-sex marriages are about to resume in California. I remember this feeling that your vote doesn’t count. The feeling that all the time, money, effort, hard work and dedication you shared didn’t matter. The feeling that, despite all your best efforts, you’ve been left out in the cold. I felt that way almost five years ago when Prop 8 passed in California.
It hurts. It feels like it was all for nothing.
But, as they say, no pain, no gain. If it weren’t for the hurt, we wouldn’t be in this place at this time. You, with your tenacity for clinging to tradition, have been a much-needed catalyst for societal change.
You told us you wanted to protect families. And we showed you that we have families that need protecting as well. We came out, again, as mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, aunts, uncles, cousins. We came out in our myriad of shapes and sizes and said, “All families matter.” Thank you for reminding us about the importance of our families and encouraging us to fight for them.
You told us you wanted to protect religious freedoms. And we showed you that our religious freedoms were being hindered when our religious leaders could not marry us in the eyes of the law. But they celebrated unions with us anyway and comforted us and prayed for us and for you. Thank you for reminding us about the importance of our religious and spiritual communities and the solace they provide.
You told us you wanted to protect children and give them a stable place to grow up. And we showed you our children and the stability they needed. Many of our children came to us from you, from parents who were unable or unwilling to care for them. Others of our children came to us from the streets where they’d sought shelter after coming out to parents who rejected them. Still others were born after much love and effort, none created as accidents, all of whom benefited from growing within the shelter of loving arms and watchful eyes, despite laws preventing full adoption for some of our parents. Thank you for inspiring us to be better parents and guardians, making the world a better place for the next generation.
You told us tradition was on your side. We examined traditions and realized that sometimes traditions need to change because, “when you know better, you do better.” Thank you for helping us re-think the way we’ve always done things so we could get out of our ruts and move to new ground.
You gave us the reason and the impetus to share our stories with the world. To replace caricatures and generalizations with the reality of faces and names. In the five years since Prop 8 was put onto the ballot in California, millions of stories have been shared and it’s much harder for Americans to say they don’t know any gays or lesbians.
We’ve been through the fire, through the flames you fanned, and it burned. It hurt. But the fire is not the end. Our phoenix is rising. And it is rising with the support and cheers of millions who heard our stories and saw our faces and touched our lives because you provided a catalyst.
Would it have been nice to get to the place we are now without having had to go through the fire? Yes, but the fire made us stronger. And the pain made us more empathetic. And the stories we’ve shared remind us that you have stories too - that you have families and religions and traditions and children worth living for and worth fighting for.
Perhaps the phoenix rising from these ashes is a society where all are respected and welcome; where children are free to learn and grow and love and be themselves; where adults provide safety and security for one another their whole lives long; where it’s more important to embrace each other than to embrace ideology.
Marriage is not easy. It is even harder when community support is not part of the equation. And yet, “For all its failings in particular cases, and for all the stress it has borne lately, marriage is the great civilizing institution. No other institution has the power to turn narcissism into partnership, lust into devotion, strangers into kin. What other force can bond across clans and countries and continents and even cultures? In Romeo and Juliet, it was not the youths’ love which their warring and insular clans feared; it was their marriage.” (Jonathan Rauch, Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights and Good for America)
Let us not fear marriage, but embrace it and support it and make it work for everyone willing to take that plunge.