By Monica F. Helms
As I get older, I am starting to understand the viewpoint of my parent’s generation and those who are older then them. I have to take drugs to combat high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and now I’m experiencing leg and joint problems. But, I take comfort in what my elders like to say, “At least you’re still alive.” I’m thankful for that.
In the recent passage of the anti gay marriage amendment in California, Proposition 8, I have seen literally hundreds of gay and lesbian people make statements to the effect of saying they feel a total loss of equality. In a state that has passed every single protection they can for LGBT people, including ones no other state has elsewhere, they see the passage of Prop 8 as a death nail to their total equality. Yet, they don’t seem to appreciate all they do have that makes them far more equal and protected then any other LGBT person in the country. They should be thankful for that.
Maybe it’s time to remind Californians what they do have, “straight” from the Equality California website. Since there were so many pieces of legislation, I only listed the bill number and the title. If you wish to read the details on each bill, please click on the link to the year.
2003: EQCA sponsored legislation that passed: AB 17 - Equal Benefits in State Contracting, AB 196 - Gender Nondiscrimination, AB 205 - Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003
EQCA-Supported Legislation that passed: AB 76 – Discrimination by Non-Employees, AB 458 - Foster Youth Anti-Discrimination Act of 2003, AB 879– Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), AB 1082 - CalPERS Recognition of Locally-Defined Domestic Partners, AB 1250 - Bias Prevention Training for Teachers, ACR 89 – Boy Scouts Resolution, SB 2 - Health Insurance Act of 2003, SB 71 - California Comprehensive Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Prevention Education Act, SB 85 – County Employees Death Benefits, SB 578 – “Sweat-Free” Contractors, SB 719 – Revisions of 1985 School Safety Act, SB 774 - Syringe Sales, SCR 11– Shareholder Pressure for Pharmaceutical Provision of HIV/AIDS Meds.
2004: LGBT related legislation that passed: AB 2208 - California Insurance Equality Act, AB 2900 - Omnibus Labor and Employment Non-Discrimination Act, SB 1234 - Omnibus Hate Crimes Act, AJR 60 - Permanent Partners Immigration Act (PPIA) Resolution.
2005: LGBT related legislation that passed: AB 849 - Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, AB 866 - Code of Fair Campaign Practices, AB 1400 - Civil Rights Act of 2005, AB 1586 - Insurance Gender Non-Discrimination Act, SB 973 - Domestic Partner Pension Death Benefit Legislation, 2005 EQCA Supported Legislation (13 bills)
2006: LGBT related legislation that passed: AB 606 - Safe Place to Learn Act, SB 1437 – Bias free Curriculum Act, SB 1827 - State Income Tax Equity Act of 2006, AB 2800 - Civil Rights Housing Act of 2006, AB 2920 - Older Californians Equality and Protection Act, SB 1441 - Nondiscrimination in State Program and Activities, AB 2051 - Equality in Prevention and Services for Domestic Abuse Act, AB 1160 - Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act, AB 1207 - Code of Fair Campaign Practices, 2006 Equality California-Supported Legislation (4 bills passed)
2007: LGBT related legislation that passed: SB 777 - Student Civil Rights Act, AB 394 - Safe Place to Learn Act, SB 518 - Juvenile Justice Safety and Protection Act, AB 14 - Civil Rights Act of 2007, SB 559 – Fair and Equal Taxation for Surviving Partners Act, AB 102 - Name Equality Act, SB 105 – Domestic Partners Joint Income Tax Filing Implementation Bill, 2007 Equality California-Supported Legislation (4 bills passed)
2008: LGBT related legislation that passed: AB 2654 - Civil Rights Act of 2008, SB 1729 - LGBT Senior Care Training, AB 3015 - Foster Youth School Safety Education.
This list contains 65 different LGBT-related bills that passed in the state of California since 2003. This doesn’t include any bills that passed before 2003. I dare say that no other state in the union can come close to all the bills California has passed, and in the large diversity of areas they cover. Does this sound like a state where an LGBT person has no equality?
I cried when Prop 8 passed, as I did for 102 in Arizona and 2 in Florida. Many of my friends have been affected directly by these. The passage of the anti gay adoption bill in Arkansas affected me greatly as well. LGBT people in Arkansas cannot adopt children, but they can if they live in California.
By checking the map on the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, we find that 29 states now have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage or broader anti-gay amendments. Another ten states have statutes based on DOMA. It will be a very long time before same-sex marriage will be accepted across the country, in a year many of us will never live long enough to see. This subject has become one of the most volatile in our community.
In a recent piece on The Bilerico Project, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solmonese stated:
“But make no mistake: I do not think we have to audition for equality. Rather, I believe that each and every one of us who has been hurt by this hateful ballot measure, and each and every one of us who is still fighting to be equal, has to confront the neighbors who hurt us. We have to say to the man with the Yes on 8 sign--you disrespected my humanity, and I am not giving you a pass. I am not giving you a pass for explaining that you tolerate me, while at the same time denying that my family has a right to exist. I do not give you permission to say you have me as a "gay friend" when you cast a vote against my family, and my rights."
The question I would like to ask, “Why does marriage qualify as being the one defining issue that validates your self worth, or your humanity?” As a trans person, I have had to come to grips with my self worth, because society considers me less than human. I started my transition in Arizona and I moved to Georgia, both are not noted for their high degree of acceptance of LGBT people. Those states have given me many reasons to have a low opinion of my self worth.
Today, I have no problem with my self-worth. I don’t need laws that protect my employment or include me in hate crimes legislation to justify my humanity. My self worth and humanity is based on me and me only. My renewed belief in God has also been very helpful. Trans people all over the country have come to realize that they will not relinquish their humanity to anyone. No one decided our humanity or self worth but us.
Maybe our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters need to take a little lesson from the trans community when it comes to self worth. We have been put down and marginalized for such a long time and for so many reasons that we had to make peace with our humanity. We have been left out of legislation so many times that we had to build the strength within us to move on. We have seen so many trans-related bills fail that it has dampened our self worth. Yet, we keep moving forward.
What moves us forward are all the places where bills have passed that protect us. Yes, we fail at times, but we have also won, like the many times they have won in California. We got comfort from each time California passed another bill. Thousands of smiles go with each of those bills I mentioned above. Let’s not have anyone decide our humanity by their hate and the passing of Prop 8. You cannot lose your sense of self worth unless you let someone take it from you. Fifty-two percent of California voters voted on a bill, but not your humanity. Stand up and let them know they haven’t taken that from you. Remember, there is always a new day to fight.