Dear Gov. Schwarzenegger:
Super Gov! What is going on? I know, I know—I don’t write often. Actually I have never written you at all. Although I am a lifelong Democrat, for a Republican, you are an OK guy in my book.
Anyway, Super Gov, I am writing you in concern about implementation of the passage of Proposition 8. Sadly, this initiative passed, officially enshrining bigotry and homophobia as the law of the land. Last Tuesday, much to my surprise and horror, the great state of California took a giant step backward.
I am a native Californian. I have never ceased to be amazed at the incredible diversity this wonderful chunk of geography offers its inhabitants. I pay my taxes. I am a decorated, honorably discharged veteran who served my state and nation for six years in the United States Navy. I vote. My car’s registration is up to date. I have insurance. I even remember to put my trashcans away the same day they are emptied. Usually my lawn and front yard are in pretty good shape, so my neighbors don’t have to suffer an eyesore. I work hard. I am back at school, furthering my education to pursue a vocation I love. I exercise and quit smoking some years back. I am a friend of Bill W. and have searched the past five-plus years to pursue a path of sobriety and spiritual growth. I have tried to be a good son, a loyal friend, an able co-worker and a good neighbor.
Oh, and I am gay.
So, since the majority has decided to use the law as a weapon against a minority, I am asking for a little help. What I would like is to have my tax bill lowered. I understand that in these tough times, trying to recover from our national headache caused by supply-side wonder kids and the false brilliance of Wall Street, this is a bad time for me to want some cash back. But I deserve it.
Since the majority of my state has decided to strip me of rights, I think it only fair that I get a refund of the tax money that supports rights, privileges and perks that they enjoy and I cannot. This law should give me back money that covers the cost of issuing marriage licenses, paying for the clerks who do that work and conduct civil marriages, refund the cost of those costly conjugal visit trailers for married couples in which one of them is a “guest” of the state. I’d also like to be paid for any advertising that promotes California as a tolerant place or great spot to get married. Send back my portion of tax dollars that benefit in anyway a married or heterosexual person in manners that I cannot also utilize. A legislative analyst should get involved to figure out how much each of us newly minted second-class citizens are to get back.
Here is a partial list where the Legislature can start looking for my refund: assumption of spouse’s pension; automatic inheritance; automatic housing lease transfer; bereavement leave; burial determination; child custody; crime victim’s recovery benefits; divorce protections; domestic violence protection; exemption from property tax on partner’s death; immunity from testifying against spouse; insurance breaks; joint adoption and foster care; joint bankruptcy; joint parenting (insurance coverage, school records); medical decisions on behalf of partner; property rights; reduced rate memberships; sick leave to care for partner; visitation of partner’s children; visitation of partner in hospital or prison; and wrongful death (loss of consort) benefits.
If the state in any way, shape or form has money tied up in these issues—even if it is only in clerical or administrative functions that have to be paid for—I want my check.
The proponents of Prop. 8 were quite clear in stating that they had to save marriage. I’m not sure what they had to save it from; after all, it is not like heterosexuals have done such a great job with the institution themselves.
Mostly, sir, I am disappointed. I had hoped beyond hope that my fellow Californians had moved past this. Oh, I can hear the choruses of “But civil unions are still around.” They are, and for that I am very grateful. But let’s cut the crap, civil unions don’t carry the same weight or power as the legally sanctioned contract between two consenting, sentient adults committing themselves to a contract to sharing their lives as one.
This is a civil rights issue. What if we were to re-establish same-race-only marriages as California once “enjoyed”? Or what if we were to vote on an initiative that dumped marriage completely in California? I mean, if it really is not such a big deal for all citizens to share in, why have it at all? Let everyone have civil unions!
I would never presume to tell a church who can marry within its walls. Those who do continue to enjoy the full protection and benefits of society that I, now, cannot. I would never presume to tell a family what to teach their children, even if that lesson is homophobia. What they do behind closed doors or believe is their business. They, too, will continue to reap the protections and benefits that I and other newly created second-class citizens help to fund.
Someone with far more intelligence, money and time will find a way to continue to challenge this repugnant alternation of equality. Some test case will come along—perhaps a couple from Massachusetts who watched their rights melt away as they crossed our borders to come live here will get active. Maybe that couple will have the strength to challenge this new law in federal court under the “full faith and credit” clause of the U.S. Constitution. Or maybe some energetic young lawyer will take up the cause and find a way to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn this and all other similar insane, punitive and ridiculous laws as it violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Who knows. Anyway Super Gov, I will be looking forward to that check. And so will my friends.
Sean L. Wall