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The greatest civil rights battle of our generation

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Deb Della Piana       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   5 comments

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This article comes from a highly personal perspective. On November 4, the United States took a great step forward by electing Barack Obama in a contest that – in the end – wasn't even really close. We also took three steps backwards as a nation by adding same-sex marriage bans in Arizona, Florida and, most disturbingly, California. I'll tell you why California is the most disturbing of all. It's the most disturbing because the state supreme court had already declared that denying gays and lesbians the right to marry is unconstitutional. Constitution be damned! The Roman Catholic church immediately jumped into action and appealed to their Mormon friends to help pass Proposition 8, designed to deny civil rights to one group of people by writing discrimination into the California State Constitution. That, my friends, is not only unconstitutional but also a grievous violation of the separation between church and state. So, the Mormons and Catholics should stop whining about being targeted. In case they do not 'get it,' they are being targeted by members of my community because they are the root of the problem. If they can't take the heat, they should get out of the kitchen, as my mother would say.

Now that they've thrown themselves directly into a political firestorm, they should suck it up and prepare for the fight. Oh, and did I mention that they should also lose their no-tax status? Yep, that's the way it's supposed to be. Only, it will never happen because we have still have the spineless bunch in office. I am particularly angry about this issue because I happen to be gay (since the womb, according to my friends) and live in Massachusetts where the legislature and the people got it right. It just isn't all that important and, contrary to the lies spread by the religious right, same-sex marriage has not caused the sky to fall in. Chicken Little doesn't live here anymore. Didn't you hear? He's moved to California. I'm also angry because there are plenty of lies and misconceptions spread about us gay people. Let me tell you how perverse my family is.

My wife, yes – we live in Massachusetts – and I have been together for seventeen years. We had a commitment ceremony with many friends and extended family back in 1992 when we moved to Gloucester together. We also 'registered' in Provincetown when that city allowed gays to register as domestic partners. In 2002, we drove to Vermont and had an outdoor civil union in the pouring rain. We were legally married in Massachusetts in 2006. There were just four attendees. We have two children, an eleven-year-old girl and a seven-year-old boy. The children are ours. We planned and had them together. Like everyone else, we have had good and bad times together. We've managed to keep it together and are very happy. Our children get up every morning and go to school. They come home and do homework (or not, sometimes). We have three rescued cats, but our son is driving us nuts lobbying for a dog. In other words, we are the same as all of you except people are either reminding us that we are abnormal and do not count as a family, or somehow the religious right and government has colluded to attempt to take our civil rights away. And you know what? We just don't get it. What is the threat to all of you heterosexual couples?

Yes, we know that your divorce rate is just about 50%. However, we know that doesn't have anything to do with us. You're managing that one all on your own. And that whole thing about same-sex marriage being abnormal? If that's the case, then why is it that I'm always reading about how a sordid sexual encounter helped some heterosexual couple save their marriage?

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Targeting one group for discrimination

This isn't rocket science. The right to marry whomever you want is guaranteed in the Constitution and, despite what the right-wing nuts want you to embrace, the Constitution is the cornerstone of American democracy, not the Bible. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that the right to marry is guaranteed only to one man and one woman. That's something that right-wing Christian conservatives want to write into the Constitution. In other words, they want to write Biblical Law into the secular US Constitution, the basis of a democracy that is supposed to serve all Americans – not just Christians. They want to continue to blur the separation between church and state because they want to move towards a theocratic form of government. And that's not okay because that is never the way our forefathers intended it to be. Now, we've heard some right-wing spin around that, but that doesn't make it so. (Believe me, it doesn't just stop at same-sex marriage. The theocrats have a huge agenda that also targets women's health and reproductive rights, stem cell research, and sex education.)

While we're aware of the role the Mormon and Roman Catholic churches have played in the passage of Proposition 8, the third largest private donor – at a whopping $900,000 – has slipped below the media's radar. His name is Howard F. Ahmanson, a recluse. He's a recluse because he's a Dominionist and they like to operate under the radar screen. In a 1985 interview with the Orange County Register he stated, “My goal is the total integration of biblical law into our lives.” The proponents of Prop 8 have come up with an interesting spin on their oppressive activity. They are not targeting gays, they are protecting marriage. They have targeted gays for discrimination by denying them – and only them – the right to marry based on Biblical law, not on secular law.

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Ahmanson, along with another major contributor – Elsa Broekhuizen, whose son is the founder of the controversial and less-than-Christian Blackwater mercenary firm – has found common ground with the Roman Catholic and Mormon churches. Strange bedfellows indeed! So intent were they to deny us the right to marry that the Mormon Church raised millions of dollars and conducted phone banking from Utah, interfering in the democratic process of another state. The fact that the Roman Catholic archbishop from San Francisco approached the Mormon Church for help in denying the civil rights of one group of people places them in collusion. The Mormon Church invested roughly $20 million, while the Knights of Columbus and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops invested $1.25 million and $200,000 respectively. This attempt to subvert the California State Constitution should result in the revocation of their non-tax status.

To maintain a no-tax status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service code, an organization may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities. In addition, these organizations are restricted in how much political and legislative (lobbying) activities they may conduct. Clearly, $20 million later and after conducting phone banking across state lines, the Mormon church has shown flagrant disregard for the Section 501(c)(3) code. The Roman Catholic Church was part and parcel to this atrocity and deserves no break, having absolved themselves by funneling most of their financial support through the Knights of Columbus.

No longer content to be 'second class citizens'

Proposition 8 has prompted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights to file suit against Proposition 8, stating it is unconstitutional because it will change the underlying principles of the California State Constitution and removes a protected right – the right to marry – from one group. Proposition 8 did something much more important, however. It galvanized a nationwide community to fight for its rights instead of sitting back and waiting for the government to do the right thing.

We (meaning the gay population) have reached the point where we are no longer content to be treated as second class American citizens. This message was sent loud and clear on Saturday, November 15, when gays and lesbians across the nation took to the streets in support of their brothers and sisters in California who deserve the right to marry whomever they choose. The battle has been officially joined. If we are good enough to pay taxes to this government and fight and die in the wars our nation creates, we are good enough to marry the partners of our choice. If, indeed, we are going to be denied rights and written out of the Constitution, then perhaps we should be absolved of financially supporting our government.

As for the Constitution, it has been amended over the years, but only to expand civil rights. It has never been amended to deny civil rights to one group of people. This is a precedent that we do not want to set. This despicable action does not 'protect' marriage. Rather, it subverts individual freedom. Where will it end? Today it's gays and lesbians, but who will it be tomorrow? Who will be next to be denied their rights? Before people sign on in support of Proposition 8 or any other ballot measure that seeks to curtail personal freedoms, they should think long and hard about how setting such a precedent could adversely affect them some day.

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Deb Della Piana is a corporate ex-patriot (30+ years in advertising & public relations) turned activist and aspiring revolutionary. Co-founder of the group #BecomeUngovernable, she invites everyone to stop by the web site, learn about the (more...)

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