Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday Brunch: Letter about Memphis ordinance, Anti-gay push polling in Nashville area, and celebrations around the State

Yellin for Fairness in Memphis: Emily Yellin wrote a great letter to the editor that appeared in today's Commercial Appeal. She writes with urgency about the recently withdrawn employment non-discrimination ordinance:

...doesn't Memphis, in particular, have a special responsibility and obligation, forevermore, to go much further than any other city in the United States in explicitly ensuring that all of its city workers are protected against any kind of intolerance or unfair employment practices?

Isn't it incumbent upon our leaders, and all of us, to guarantee, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we will never again allow any unequal labor conditions to exist in this city that could set the stage for the kind of local suffering and national tragedy that took place here in 1968?

Dialing up the hate in Nashville: Yesterday we wrote a Facebook note on some anti-GLBT push polling going on the 5th Congressional District. It is apparently coming from David Hall's campaign in his effort to unseat Congressman Jim Cooper. I don't think he's going to get much traction with this tactic. First, anti-gay campaigning is so 2004--2006. Second, most people are focused on jobs and the economy. Third, um, we passed that little thing in Nashville called the non-discrimination ordinance and no one's head exploded. Fourth, the three people I know who received the call are all equality advocates. If Mr. Hall wants to motivate voters in East Nashville and Belmont-Hillsboro to turn out in big numbers in November, we won't stand in his way.

Celebrate good times, come on!: Despite the challenges, Tennessee's GLBT community knows how to celebrate the good things in life. On September 5, the TEP Tri-Cities Committee is throwing the first ever GLAMBOREE to raise money for the organization. Part drag show and part cookout, the event will definitely rock Johnson City like it's never been rocked before. And on September 15, the TEP Nashville Committee brings you the Nashville Victory Toast to celebrate the anniversary of the Metro non-discrimination ordinance. Join 59 hosts and representatives of Metro government to celebrate this important milestone.

That's it. Have a great Saturday. Back to the iced tea!

-Chris Sanders

Friday, August 27, 2010

I was going to take a nap before Paul Stanley had to mention Tiger Woods

After a long week that included a couple of political disappointments, I thought I would take a nap late this afternoon. But then I glanced at a Facebook post by Mr. Kleinheider. It was a link to this post at the Tennessean's political blog pointing out that former State Sen. Paul Stanley had decided to say a few words about Tiger Woods and the public's consumption of his recent scandals.

The former senator says, “Is it sim­ply our desire to know what goes on within the four walls of celebri­ties’ bed­rooms that enthrall us or are we just as curi­ous about what goes on with Mike and Jane next door? ”


Neither the Tennessean piece nor Stanley's piece points out the obvious. This is a self-involved and misleading piece not just because of Stanley's own troubles, but because he introduced legislation that would harm others based on their relationships. SB0078, the bill that would ban individuals in a cohabitating sexual relationship from adopting children, is unavoidable background to Stanley's fall from the Senate. That detail is missing from the Tiger Woods story.

Perhaps the People-magazine reading crowd was interested in the senator, the intern, the intern's boyfriend, the camera, and the extortion. But what made Stanley's situation so notable is that it exposed the closeted sexuality of those who try to impose restrictions on others.

There was definitely a segment of the public that didn't really care about learning every detail of Stanley's scandal. The part that mattered the most to many of us is the fact that he pinned the ability to adopt on a certain definition of proper relationships. People, straight or gay, who live together but don't have a legal marriage in Tennessee, are not worthy, according to Stanley's legislation.

Maybe the golfers and the other retired right-wing state senators now living in exile in Franklin are nodding as they read Stanley's post, but I don't recommend that he try to sell it in the rest of the state, especially Shelby and Davidson Counties. We remember what he did. Redemption will come when he makes amends not just for the affair, but also for attempt to make us second-class citizens in the law.

-Chris Sanders

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mayor AC Wharton wants to be clear about the Memphis Employment Non-Discrimination Ordinance

Over the course of yesterday, the news broke that TEP asked for the employment non-discrimination ordinance and resolution to be withdrawn. TEP's Shelby County Committee based its decision on the shifting position of Mayor AC Wharton and biased treatment of legislation by the Memphis City Council.

Four weeks ago, City Council members asked for a clear statement from Mayor Wharton on the issue. Mayor Wharton issued his most public statement on the proposed legislation yesterday on his Facebook Fan page:

Allow me to be clear: throughout my career in public service, most recently as Shelby County Mayor when this same issue was under discussion by the County Commission, I have stated that I believe governments should focus on merit and merit alone in their hiring and purchasing policies. My vision is for Memphis to be a city of choice for all people. Our city's success will require all individuals, regardless of their differences, to work together toward a shared prosperous future.
The Mayor goes on to say . . . .

Over the past several weeks, I have watched with great interest to see what direction the City Council will take. This discussion originated with them and will conclude with them. I will abide by my duty to support whatever actions they take. My hope is that they proceed in a way that aligns with our values of inclusiveness and non-discrimination.

My beliefs or views on the subject have been clear and consistent throughout my entire life. I will not permit them to be mischaracterized by any group, individual, or elected body who seek a convenient excuse to avoid the issue now that it is at hand.
Mayor Wharton says he wants to be clear. I would never attempt to mischaracterize the Mayor's beliefs or views, but Mayor Wharton's stance has shifted at least three times on the legislation supported by the Tennessee Equality Project and our allies.

At first he supported the LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination legislation during his campaign for Memphis Mayor and in TEP's negotiations with his administration. At the August 10 Personnel Committee meeting of the City Council, Mayor Wharton's representative said he supported the watered-down version of the legislation containing no specific protections for LGBT employees that passed in Shelby County Government. In this latest statement he says that he will support whatever action the Council decides to take.

One thing IS clear. The Mayor does not want to bear any responsibility for lack of leadership on this issue. His shifting position and leadership on the issue will be the talk of many LGBT citizens and their allies in Memphis for many days to come.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

City of Memphis fails to provide fair hearing for inclusive workplace protections

Memphis TN, August 24, 2010:  At the request of the Tennessee Equality Project Councilwoman Janis Fullilove withdrew the Employment Non-Discrimination Ordinance that would provide inclusive workplace protections for City of Memphis employees based on religion, race, national origin, ethnicity, age, sex, political affiliation, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression. The withdrawal is designed to save Memphis City Government and the larger community from becoming a national disgrace in the movement to create an inclusive community that welcomes people from diverse backgrounds.

On the first of three readings of the Employment Non-Discrimination Ordinance (ENDO) on Aug. 10, the Mayor of Memphis and the Memphis City Council made it clear that proposed legislation would not receive a fair hearing.  City Attorney Herman Morris announced that Mayor AC Wharton reversed his position supporting LGBT-inclusive workplace protections. Mayor Wharton pledged his support for LGBT-inclusive workplace protections during his campaign and again when working with the Tennessee Equality Project through the City Attorney’s office to write the proposed ordinance.

Also on August 10, the Memphis City Council displayed an unexpected bias against the proposed legislation that is rarely demonstrated on other matters brought before the Council.

City ordinances on first and second reading are routinely bundled into a consent agenda that appears at the end of the regular agenda during City Council meetings. The Council reviews each item in the consent agenda and then votes to approve or disapprove all of the items in bulk. The Council waits for the third reading to debate ordinances and opens the floor for public comment from citizens for input.

But that didn't happen at the first reading. Councilwoman Barbara Swearengen Ware objected to the inclusion of the ENDO and threatened to vote against the entire consent agenda if it was not voted on separately.

After the ENDO was knocked out of the consent agenda, Councilman Bill Morrison introduced a substitute ordinance that gutted the inclusive ENDO. His substitute ordinance contained no provisions protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. His substitute proposed protections based on non-merit factors that are already explicitly defined in current municipal, state, and federal law.

Neither the Council nor the public was given an opportunity to review the substitute ordinance. Morrison acted in secret and broke a campaign pledge he made when he ran for office to support LGBT-inclusive workplace protections.

Some Council members and critics claim there is no bias or discrimination in City Government against LGBT people. But the first reading of the ENDO demonstrates that anti-LGBT bias starts at the top. The LGBT community and City employees were not given the respect and consideration by the City Council normally afforded to others in our community. These preemptive measures were deployed to silence public debate and prevent a fair hearing of the legislation.

Since LGBT citizens and City employees were treated like second-class citizens by the Memphis Mayor and City Council, TEP does not believe that Memphis City Government is serious about making Memphis a real City of Choice for all job seekers, entrepreneurs and business leaders. Memphis will be considered a City of Exclusion as long as its citizens are treated with disrespect and fear. TEP looks forward to returning to the Mayor and the City Council with legislation protecting all employees from unfair discrimination when a fair hearing is possible.

The Tennessee Equality Project wishes to thank Councilwoman Janis Fullilove for her courage in sponsoring the legislation and our allies on the Council who support equality. Fullilove endured death threats and an LGBT-related hate crime as a straight ally. We deeply appreciate her commitment to equality in the workplace.

Contact: Jonathan Cole
Tennessee Equality Project
Phone 901-301-3306

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Small in size, but packing a powerful punch: A lesson from unions

Today's Tennessean includes a detailed piece on the role of unions in Tennessee and Nashville politics. It has helped me extend my thinking in a previous post about the need for Tennessee's GLBT community to get more involved in electoral politics. Even though their numbers are declining, unions are adapting and stepping up their political activity. As the piece points out:

A survey of campaign finance records show unions have contributed at least $120,000 to campaigns this election cycle, including to the House and Senate Democratic caucuses; many Middle Tennessee Democratic legislative candidates; Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mike McWherter; and Dean, Nashville's Democratic mayor, who is running for re-election next year.

And what's the motivation? It will sound familiar to many members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. According to SEIU's Doug Collier:

"I think we all need to grow out of necessity," he said. "Tennessee is a right-to-work, at-will state. If people don't have a voice on the job, there are many stories across this state of people showing up to work and being terminated or sent home for no reason."

So just to make the connection perfectly clear: Unions are a small group of people in Tennessee concerned about protecting their jobs. In fact, the percentage of Tennessee workers represented by unions in collective bargaining is 6.6 according to the same Tennessean piece. Tennessee's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender population is small but growing and growing significantly in urban areas like Nashville, according to Williams Institute analysis of census data. And like unions, our community is concerned about job protections. There are no federal, state, or local laws in Tennessee protecting workers in the private sector from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Some public employers like Shelby Co government, Metro Nashville government, Metro Nashville Public Schools, the Tennessee Board of Regents, and the University of Tennessee offer these protections to their own employees. But even the vast majority of state and local government employees in Tennessee lack these protections.

Put your money where your mouth is (going to be): Unions put into practice something the Tennessee GLBT community doesn't yet do. They give large amounts of money collectively to help elect candidates who can represent their interests in the Legislature and in local government. Such activity obviously helps amplify their voice when they come to lobby officials on their issues. Since November our community has bundled about $11,000 for state and local candidates. It's a good start, but given the growth of our community and our need for job protections, to say nothing of the need for defeating bad legislation, we've got more work to do.

-Chris Sanders

Saturday, August 21, 2010

TEP's commitment to inclusion

The Board of TEP often adopts policy positions for local and state level  legislation. Whenever we adopt such positions, we advance inclusive policies that protect people based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. 

All non-discrimination legislation supported and advanced by TEP seeks to protect lesbian, gay, straight, bisexual and transgender people. TEP Board members and I are often asked why we choose to be inclusive of the L, G, B and the T. The question is often accompanied by a criticism that advancing legislation that protects people based on sexual orientation is made harder by including gender identity and expression. Why don't we try to advance legal protections based on sexual orientation and then return  later to advance protections based on gender identity or expression?

There are many reasons for choosing LGBT-inclusive legislation. 

Anti-discrimination legislation that includes protections for sexual orientation but excludes gender identity or expression actually provides little protection for lesbian, gay, straight or bisexual people. Non-inclusive legislation creates loopholes that make it easier to get away with unfair discrimination. An employer can fire an employee based on how they express their gender and make no reference to his or her sexual orientation. 

We all express gender. While he is from South Carolina, you have probably observed US Senator Lindsey Graham on television talk shows and other news programs. Graham is a socially conservative, heterosexual Republican who has never married. Graham also speaks with one of those grand Southern accents that comes across as gentile, even effeminate. Tea Party activists in his home state recently accused Graham of being gay. Because the challenge was so public, Graham felt compelled to set the record straight (pun intended) that he was not gay in a newspaper interview.   If the conservative and heterosexual Senator Graham is susceptible to attacks about perceptions about his sexual orientation because of his gender identity or expression, we all are. 

While including gender identity and expression provides protections for straight, gay, lesbian and bisexual persons, it covers transgender persons too. Hate crimes and unemployment rates are terrifically and disproportionately high for the number of transgender individuals in our society. It's not hard to argue that they are in even greater need of protections in hate crime and anti-discrimination legislation for employment, housing, services and public accommodations.

Many local governments have advanced anti-discrimination legislation over the last several decades. In some instances, legislators abandoned gender identity and expression in favor of protections for sexual orientation only. Many of these jurisdictions still do not provide protections based on gender identity or expression. Some have closed the gap in their anti-discrimination law, but it took decades to correct the omission of gender identity or expression. Here in Tennessee, TEP is fighting to add gender identity and expression to our state's hate crime law years after sexual orientation was added. We all know that hate crimes against trans women of color in the Memphis area are disproportionately high.

These arguments are all good ones, but the most powerful arguments for me are deeply personal. My commitment to my transgender friends is deep and abiding. I have watched many dear friends bravely face an unfair, unjust and callous society. They are worthy allies in our common struggle for equality, and I choose to move forward with them. I am fortunate to Chair the Board of an organization like TEP that shares this conviction. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

No bias, no discrimination here

At the first reading of the Memphis Employment Non-Discrimination Ordinance (ENDO) on August 10, the Memphis City Council displayed an unexpected bias against the proposed legislation that is rarely demonstrated on other matters brought before the Council.

City ordinances on first and second reading are routinely bundled into a consent agenda that appears at the end of the regular agenda during City Council meetings. The Council reviews each item in the consent agenda and then votes to approve or disapprove all of the items in bulk. The Council waits for the third reading to debate ordinances and opens the floor for public comment from citizens for input.

But that didn't happen at the first reading. Councilwoman Barbara Swearengen Ware objected to the inclusion of the ENDO and threatened to vote against the entire consent agenda if it was not voted on separately.

After the ENDO was knocked out of the consent agenda, Councilman Bill Morrison took advantage of the situation to introduce a substitute ordinance that gutted the inclusive ENDO. His substitute ordinance contained no provisions protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. His substitute proposed protections based on non-merit factors that are already explicitly defined in current municipal, state, and federal law.

Before the moment that Morrison introduced his substitute ordinance, no one on the Council or the public had been given an opportunity to review the ordinance. He acted in secret and broke a campaign pledge he made when he ran for office to support lgbt-inclusive workplace protections.

We were lucky that a large majority on the Council defeated the substitute ordinance and subsequently adopted the ENDO on it's first reading with seven out of thirteen votes.

Some Council members and public citizens have claimed there is no bias or discrimination in City Government against lgbt people. But the first reading of the ENDO demonstrates that the bias starts at the top. The lgbt community and City employees were not given the respect and consideration by the City Council normally afforded to others in our community. These preemptive measures were deployed to silence debate and throw lgbt people under the bus.

The second reading of the ENDO by the City Council will take place at 3:30 pm on Tuesday, August 24 at 125 North Main Street. Memphians must hold their City Council accountable for its behavior and bias. The Council need only to look for proof of discrimination and bias of lgbt citizens on the dais they share together every other Tuesday to realize the need for LGBT-inclusive workplace protections. For the sake of our city and the high hopes of Mayor Wharton in marketing Memphis as a City of Choice for big business, job seekers and entrepreneurs, let's hope the Council will learn from its mistakes and vote to define our city as an inclusive and welcoming community.

Make plans today to attend the second reading.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nike, Inc supports level playing field in Memphis

Today, the Tennessee Equality Project learned of Nike, Inc.'s endorsement of the Memphis Employment Non-Discrimination Ordinance sponsored by Councilwoman Janis Fullilove.

In an August 9 letter addressed to Memphis City Council Chairman Harold Collins, Nike urged him and his fellow council members:

to support the proposed amendments to the Memphis Non-Discrimination Ordinance which will be debated before your council in the coming days. By supporting this measure, you will support the conviction that every American deserves a chance to compete and prosper on a level playing field.

The letter continues:
At Nike we believe that diversity and inclusion is about respecting our differences, leveraging our strengths and maximizing opportunity for everyone. Nike is passionately supportive of its employees, respectful of our consumers and committed to equality for our athletes. As a result, these values make us a better company and more competitive in our industry.

Nike is one of many Fortune 500 companies with a presence in Memphis that offer LGBT-inclusive workplace protections, such as FedEx, United Parcel Service, AT&T, Medtronic, Sears, Costco, First Horizon National, Macy's, and Walgreens.

The City of Memphis will be in good company when it approves legislation that specifically protects the rights of gay, lesbian, bi, straight and transgender employees at the third reading of the ordinance on September 14.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Put down that Cosmo: The dilemma of GLBT involvement in state and local races

And by Cosmo, I mean the drink, not the magazine, although that would apply in some cases, too.

So what's the dilemma and what do Cosmos have to do with state and local races?

I'm talking about the dilemma of how you get the GLBT community involved in campaigns when there aren't nearly enough great candidates. Maybe the issue is no different for those trying to get straight folks involved. I'm not a sociologist and I may lapse into more stereotypes than Cosmo drinking in this post, so I offer apologies on the front end. But I know of one sense in which the dilemma is different for us. We have more to gain and much to lose compared to the rest of the population.

Not even close to equal: If you haven't noticed, we're not exactly equal. Trangender people can't change the sex designation on their birth certificates. Same-sex couples can't get married. And most people employed in Tennessee can be fired based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. We routintely face attacks on our adoption rights.

So why aren't we hopping all over every opportunity to get involved with candidates who could make things even a little better? In my bitter moments (yes, even publicly optimistic activists have them), I think, "Geesh, could we put down the Cosmo for a minute and spend an hour phone banking for a good candidate?" (Hence the title of this post) And in clearer moments, I still believe the social/party culture can be an obstacle, but I know it's far more complicated than that. Everyone is busy with family and work. We don't want to give up free time for repetitive activities like phone banking and holding signs for candidates on Election Day.

There's the dilemma. We have more to gain and a lot more to lose, but, as I said, there aren't many candidates that positively excite us. That's the rational part of our community's calculation. Will it really be worth our time to get involved?

It's SO worth it (if you do it right): Anyone who knows me knows my answer is already YES. I'll do my best to justify it. You have significantly better opportunities when you volunteer for or give to a candidate EXPLICITLY AS PART OF THE GLBT COMMUNITY AS A GROUP! It's in all caps for a reason. You all know I'm not an all-caps kind of guy, but I'll shout about this.

1st Level: A member of our community as a lone individual can make a limited impact for equality. He or she can help a good candidate win an election. Obviously working in a coordinated effort, we can do a lot more for a good candidate. That's simple. No argument.

2nd Level: But working explicitly as part of the GLBT community as a group (sorry, no caps the second time) can help move a candidate who's so-so on our issues to become a better candidate on our issues. Bundling checks for a candidate gets noticed. Producing 10 volunteers that the candidate knows are part of the same group gets noticed and it gets remembered when it comes time for casting a vote on an important issue. It's not magic. It doesn't determine the outcome. But when you produce numbers--money, votes, volunteers--for a candidate, you're a bigger part of the equation of connecting a candidate to an issue. We all already know this, but it's my job to say it all the damned time.

About that GayTM thing: At the national level, there's a big debate about shutting down the GayTM, in other words, stop giving to candidates who don't do enough to advance equal rights legislation. That makes sense in areas where those communities have longer traditions of giving large amounts of money and volunteer time in a coordinated effort to congressional candidates. But in a state like Tennessee, we have the other problem/opportunity. We don't have any extensive history of generating coordinated efforts to give to and volunteer for campaigns at the state and local level. I'd like to see us test the hypothesis of whether it would make a difference.

The preachy part: So my advice is simple. Be involved. Be involved in a coordinated effort. Let's do all we can to elect and reelect the great candidates and let's move some of the so-so candidates into the good column. And if you don't want to put down the Cosmo, bring it with you and bring enough for all of us!

And maybe that's part of the answer. Those of us trying to help with the coordination need to make it more fun. Duly noted! But here's a hint, it's a lot more fun when you do it as part of a group, and it's even better when your candidates win and they know you're part of the reason. Let's give it a try this year.

-Chris Sanders

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Memphis Employment Non-Discriminattion Ordinance passes first reading

The Memphis Employment Non-Discrimination Ordinance protecting city employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression passed its first reading by the Memphis City Council last night with 7 votes in favor, 6 no votes and 1 abstention.

Adoption on first reading for an ordinance is customary, but the usual courtesies and procedures given to most legislation by the council were thrown out last night. Watch the video of the proceedings beginning at 3:39:40.

Ordinances appear for first and second reading on what the Council calls its Consent Agenda. Council rules generally call for ordinances to be bundled and passed together in one motion after they are read. However, Councilwoman Barbara Swearengen Ware informed the Council last night that she would vote against the entire Consent Agenda if it included Councilwoman Fullilove's Employment Non-Discrimination Ordinance. Council rules allow for any member of the Council to object to an item on the Consent Agenda. Such objections place an item on the regular agenda to be acted on separately. Ware objected to the ordinance's inclusion on the consent agenda because the ordinance was sent to the full Council from the Personnel Committee without recommendation.

Councilwoman Fullilove attempted to salvage the situation by requesting that her ordinance be take back to committee for more discussion and a recommendation. However, Chairman Collins ruled that Fullilove's ordinance could be pulled out of the Consent Agenda and considered separately according to Council rules.

Before Fullilove's ordinance was voted on, Councilman Bill Morrison proposed a substitute ordinance to replace the original. Morrison's ordinance prohibited employment discrimination based on religion, race, sex, creed, political affiliation, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age or other nonmerit factors. Factors like sexual orientation and gender identity or expression were omitted. All of the non-merit factors listed in Morrison's ordinance are already covered by current municipal, state or federal law. A majority of Council members (including those who supported or opposed Fullilove's inclusive ordinance) voted against Morrison's substitute ordinance. Many council members objected to the substitute because the public was not given a chance to review the new ordinance. The substitute also ignored the original intent of Fullilove's LGBT-inclusive ordinance.

The Council then turned to consider Fullilove's inclusive ordinance. Seven members of the Council voted to adopt the ordinance on first reading. However, some of those yes votes were cast because council members wanted to give the public a full hearing of the legislation. Tennessee Equality Project is pulling out all the stops to ensure that the Council and Mayor AC Wharton support an inclusive ordinance. Supporters in Memphis need to do what it can to convince the Council that this ordinance merits passage at the second and third reading.

If you have not already done so, contact the Memphis City Council here and Mayor AC Wharton here to let them know you support LGBT-inclusive workplace protections in Memphis.

Plan to attend the Personnel Committee and full Council meeting for the second reading on Tuesday, August 24 at 8 AM and 3:30 PM, respectively. We need you at the same meetings on Tuesday, September 14.

Other media reports on yesterday's proceedings:

Commercial Appeal
Out and About
WREG Channel 3
Eyewitness News

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Prop 8 Fails Because "Conjecture, speculation and fears are not enough"

Okay, everyone. This will not be a complete analysis of the trial court's decision in the Prop 8 case, just a few memorable and noteworthy observations.

So we won, what does that mean? Well, quite a bit actually. Yes, the proponents of Prop 8 will appeal. We knew that would happen. But today's decision was a huge win for Due Process and Equal Protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. (You know, that one that conservatives want repealed in the immigration debate) The judge found for us because there is no rational basis for this law. There is no threat to heterosexual marriage from same sex marriages. There is no rational state purpose that is advanced by denying same sex marriage. The only argument against the state of California issuing same sex couples a marriage license is that there are people who either have an animus towards homosexuals or base their position on a religious belief. Neither of these reasons is enough to justify treating one class of citizens differently when it comes to the civil institution of marriage.

It is incredibly important that this was a full trial, with evidence presented on both sides, and the judge decides the issues of fact.

Factual determinations at trial are not reviewed on appeal. What does that mean? Well, the Proponents' attorney actually told the judge that they didn't have to provide any evidence (note to self: NEVER SAY THAT TO A JUDGE WHEN I START PRACTICING). Interestingly, what little testimony they did produce from their "experts" actually supported the Plaintiff's case. The judge also pointedly referred to the witnesses that the Proponents withdrew prior to trial. See, their excuse for not testifying was that the trial was going to be televised and they "feared" some sort of 'queer retribution'. He points out that the Supreme Court kept the cameras out, so the Proponents had plenty of time to recall those witnesses...but didn't bother to do so. One of their witnesses cited "the Internet" as a source for his information....'cause we all know everything on the Internet is true.

The entire campaign for Proposition 8 was backed, orchestrated and financed by Protect Marriage. Protect Marriage was funded via the Church of Latter Day Saints, the Catholic Church, and various evangelical Christian denominations.

Why is this an important finding? As the judge explains, while the state may authorize a clergy member to officiate a marriage ceremony, marriage is a recognized civil matter subject to civil law. Religious authorities do not get to determine who may enter into or leave a marriage; the state determines by law who is eligible to marry. Religious belief is not equivalent to a state interest, nor should it be a basis for discriminating under the law. Just because a large majority of people hold a religious belief, that is not a justification for imposing a discriminatory law against a class of citizens who do not share that belief.

The institution we call "marriage" has changed many times over the course of American history, so the definition of "marriage" is not carved in stone.

As the judge points out, when California became a state, women were considered the subordinate of their husbands, and lost their individual identity upon marriage. Interracial marriage was illegal. Divorce laws have changed. Marriage is not dependant on an ability to procreate, either. Adopted children, step children, and children produced through surrogacy or in vitro fertilization thrive just as well as their peers born to fertile heterosexual couples. Oh, and old people are still allowed to get married without being required to be fertile. This is important because it shows that so-called 'traditional marriage' is not related to a state interest in channeling "irresponsible procreation" (which apparently is just a horrible problem among heterosexuals), as the Proponents argued at trial.

I could go on and on and on. Suffice it say that not one single argument put forth by the Prop 8 folks was found to have merit, not one of their witnesses was found credible, much less any foundation in evidence or logic or rational argument. It boils down to this: You don't have to like us, you don't have to approve of us, you are free to believe we are all going to hell in a hand basket, but you DO NOT get to deny us fundamental rights under the law.