Fascinating amicus briefs were flying last week. The issue of same-sex marriage was discussed more intelligently than ever before. In-depth thought and solid information, including an outstanding synopsis by the American Sociological Association, appeared as amicus briefs filed with the U.S. Supreme Court. One of these was from 278 employers and organizations arguing from a pro-business perspective that to "attract the best employees and colleagues" they must "offer robust workplace benefits and a workplace ethos of transparent fairness."
Hewlett-Packard did not sign on to that one, but its CEO, Meg Whitman, signed on to another. That brief represented 131 prominent Republicans and their support of marriage equality. They stated:
This case accordingly presents one of the rare instances in which judicial intervention is necessary to prevent overreaching by the electorate. When fundamental liberties are at stake, personal "choices and assessments ... are not for the Government to make," ... and courts must step in to prevent any encroachment upon individual rights.
Meg Whitman's participation in this amicus brief surprised me. When she was the Republican candidate for governor here in California, she promised to make sure that Proposition 8 would be upheld. Her campaign sought out "Yes on 8" supporters as their base. At the time, she praised Proposition 8 as a "matter of personal conscience and my faith."
She now writes that her change in position was based on "review and reflection." How those correlate with personal conscience and faith was not explained. In a blog post on LinkedIn, she states:
During my business career, I have lived by a philosophy I refer to as "the power of many." I truly believe that what we can do together, none of us can do alone. ... Like several others who have either sought or held public office, including President Obama, I have changed my mind on this issue. Same-sex couples and their children should have equal access to the benefits of marriage.
Though I'm glad about Whitman's flip-flop in favor of equality, as a gay dad, I have to reflect on the pain and damage inflicted by the "Yes on 8" campaign, something that I believe Ms. Whitman needs to know before she shakes this bit of dust from her feet. Here's my open letter to her:
Dear Ms. Whitman,
Two and a half years ago, when you were running for governor of California, you became inextricably linked to the efforts to prevent people like me from marrying the people we love. Proposition 8 was headed to court, and your opponent and his predecessor refused to defend it, so you promised that if elected, you would be its champion. You reversed that stance last week as the 2008 ballot initiative takes its final strides to the Supreme Court.
Before addressing your change of heart, I need to let you know about the effects of the "Yes on 8" campaign and its defense on my family. The months leading up to the 2008 election were horrific and threatening. I put out "Vote No on Prop 8" signs by our driveway in our rural neighborhood so that my neighbors would know that their vote actually affected a real family nearby, but an anonymous vandal would secretly stomp down the signs or throw them in the bushes on a daily basis. I restored them while feeling a little sick to my stomach over the thought that my property could be violated so cavalierly. Signs also appeared outside my sons' kindergarten, brandishing the words "Protect Marriage." They made it clear that our family was not welcome.
The campaign for the ballot initiative that you defended was dishonest and intrusive into our lives. The "Yes on 8" campaign logo depicted the cartoon silhouette of a 1950s-style "ideal" family consisting of a man, a woman, a girl and a boy, their gender indicated by whether they were wearing slacks or a dress. I thought of all my kids' female teachers, the girls in their classes and all my mom friends, and I could not think of the last time I saw one of them in a dress. Yet here was an image telling my boys that a "perfect family" requires not only a wife/mom but a sister. Ours has neither. Meanwhile, "Yes on 8" protest groups were out and visible and had a demoralizing, Westboro-like effect on many of my friends. One young man who was struggling with his sobriety called me daily to vent the anger he felt as he passed the "Yes on 8" protestors on his way to work.
I found myself feeling a growing sense of paranoia. Half the state wished harm on my family, and you had promised to uphold that harm. I had to worry about where my consumer money was going. It became evident that there were businesses out there that had no problem with taking my money and then using it against me and my family, undermining our lives. Co-workers would come by my desk, which was decked out with my sons' nursery school and kindergarten projects, and I had to wonder which of them was smiling and laughing with me but planning to vote against my family's well-being or, worse, investing significantly in the fight against us.
The morning after Election Day 2008, I awoke to find that my country had made history by electing its first African-American president, who had voiced his opposition to Prop 8, yet I also found that my fellow Californians had voted away one of my basic rights and derailed my pursuit of happiness. But then I got stronger. Many of us did. We stepped up and spoke out. Two years later you vowed to fight against us, and we defeated you. The morning after Election Day 2010, you awoke to find that your bid to become chief executive of our state had failed, and the sordid ballot initiative that you had exploited to drum up support for your candidacy was going to have to find others to defend it in court.
In explaining your change of heart, you compared your evolution on the issue to that of President Obama. That is not really fair. Though he did verbalize a shift in thinking, his policies were always supportive of LGBTQ families. Yours were not.
It is time to let bygones be bygones. It is time for me to let go of the anger from two and a half years ago and accept the olive branch of support that you are extending. Your affirming statements and visibility in the lead-up to the Supreme Court's decision are hugely beneficial to the cause of equality, and I cannot overstate my appreciation for your having made this change of heart at this time in history. Your statements of support could hold significant sway, and I want to express the deep respect that I feel toward you for your new position and unexpected actions.
I want to end this with two specific words: "Thank you." It would be nice if I could offer those words unconditionally, and I intend to, but I can't help but wish that your statement of support had also included two specific words of its own: "I'm sorry."