Justice MUST prevail against PROP 8
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 anybody else.
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
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