ACLU Executive Director Makes Personal Plea Opposing California Proposition 8
Ballot Initiative Would Outlaw Same-Sex Marriage
NEW YORK - Anthony
D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union,
sent a personal plea Tuesday urging people to encourage their friends
and family in California to fight the passage of Proposition 8. The
ballot initiative on the California general election ballot on November
4 would amend the state constitution to strip same-sex couples of the
right to marry.
In the note, Romero describes his
personal journey coming out as a gay man and his, and the ACLU's,
mission to fight discrimination. The note says: "We recognize that
injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere ... Given what's
at stake in the outcome of this election, I am personally appealing to
you for help to fight the forces of intolerance from carrying the day
in California next Tuesday."
The full letter is as follows:
Dear ACLU Supporter,
I'm angry and heartsick about what may happen in California on November 4th.
In the most personal way possible, I'm writing to ask you for a favor:
help us ensure that gay couples all across California keep their
fundamental right to marriage - the basic right to be treated just like
I hope you will forgive the indulgence when I speak from the heart and tell you my personal story.
You see, I grew up in a loving and supportive household, where my
family believed I could be anything I chose - anything except being an
openly gay man. Neither of my parents finished high school, and yet,
they believed I could accomplish all I set out to do as I went off to
Princeton University and Stanford Law School.
They got me through the toughest of times, scrimped and saved, and
always believed that failure wasn't in the cards for me. They had more
faith in me than I often had in myself. Whenever my parents visited me
at Princeton, my Dad would slip a $20 bill in my pocket when my Mom
wasn't looking. I never had the courage to tell him that the $20
wouldn't go very far towards my bills, books and tuition. But, it was
his support and belief in me that sustained me more than the tens of
thousands of dollars I received in scholarships.
When I finished college, they were hugely proud of my - and their -
accomplishments. That was until I told them I was gay and wanted to
live life as an openly gay man.
Though I always knew I was gay, I didn't come out to them for many
years, as I was afraid of losing the love and support that had allowed
me to succeed against all odds. When I did tell them, they cried and
even shouted. I ended up leaving their home that night to spend a
sleepless night on a friend's sofa. We were all heartbroken.
When my Mom and I spoke later, my Mom said, "But, Antonio (that's the
name she uses with me), hasn't your life been hard enough? People will
hurt you and hate you because of this." She, of course, was right - as
gay and lesbian people didn't only suffer discrimination from working
class, Puerto Rican Catholics, but from the broader society. She felt
that I had escaped the public housing projects in the Bronx, only to
suffer another prejudice - one that might be harder to beat - as the
law wasn't on my side. At the time, it felt like her own homophobia.
Now I see there was also a mother's love and a real desire to protect
her son. She was not wrong at a very fundamental level. She knew that
treating gay and lesbian people like second class citizens - people who
may be worthy of "tolerance, " as Sarah Palin asserts, but not of
equality - was and still is the last socially-acceptable prejudice.
Even before I came out to them, I struggled to accept myself as a gay
man. I didn't want to lose the love of my family, and I wanted a family
of my own - however I defined it. I ultimately chose to find my own way
in life as a gay man. This wasn't as easy as it sounds even though it
was the mid-1980s. I watched loved ones and friends die of AIDS. I was
convinced I would never see my 40th birthday, much less find a partner
whom I could marry.
As years passed, my Mom, Dad and I came to a peace, and they came to
love and respect me for who I am. They even came to defend my right to
live with equality and dignity - often fighting against the homophobia
they heard among their family and friends and in church.
The right to be equal citizens and to marry whomever we wish -
unimaginable to me when I first came out - is now ours to lose in
California unless we stand up for what's right. All of us must fight
against what's wrong. In my 43 short years of life, I have seen gay and
lesbian people go from pariahs and objects of legally-sanctioned
discrimination to being on the cusp of full equality. The unimaginable
comes true in our America if we make it happen. But, it requires effort
One of the things I love about the ACLU is that it's an organization
that understands we are all in this together. We recognize that
injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Given what's at stake in the outcome of this election, I am personally
appealing to you for help to fight the forces of intolerance from
carrying the day in California next Tuesday.
If you have friends and family in California, please contact them right now, and ask them to vote NO on Proposition 8. You can send them a message here.
We need to make sure people keep in mind that gay people are part of
every family and every community - that like everyone else, gay people
want the same rights to commit to their partners, to take care of each
other and to take responsibility for each other. We shouldn't deny
that, and we shouldn't write discrimination into any constitution in
any state. Certainly, we can't let that happen in California after the
highest court in the state granted gay and lesbian people their full
Unfortunately, due to a vicious, deceitful $30 million advertising
blitz, the supporters of Prop 8 may be within days of taking that
fundamental right away.
To stop the forces of discrimination from succeeding, we have to win
over conflicted voters who aren't sure they're ready for gay marriage
but who are also uncomfortable going into a voting booth and stripping
away people's rights. With the ACLU contributing time, energy and
millions of dollars to the effort, we're working hard to reach those
key voters before next Tuesday.
If you have friends and family in California, please contact them right
now, and ask them to vote NO on Proposition 8. Share this email with
them. Call them. Direct them to our website for more information.
Don't let other young people grow up to be afraid to be who they are
because of the discrimination and prejudice they might face. Let them
see a future that the generation before them couldn't even dream of - a
future as full and equal citizens of the greatest democracy on earth.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us, "The arc of the moral universe
is long, but it bends toward justice." As we strive to defeat Prop 8
and the injustice it represents, the ACLU is trying to make that arc a
On behalf of my Mom and family, and on behalf of all the people who
will never face legally-sanctioned discrimination, I thank you for
being part of this struggle and for doing everything you can to help.
It is a privilege and honor to have you as allies in this fight for dignity and equality.
With enormous appreciation,
Anthony D. Romero
P.S. All the polls show that the
vote on Prop 8 could go either way. By making just a few calls or
sending just a few emails, you could help make the difference. Please,
don't let this fundamental right be taken away. Send an eCard to everyone you know in California.