Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Today is the Day We Beat Proposition 8

An email with that subject line is sitting in my inbasket from the No on 8 campaign.

All I can say about that is: From your mouth to god's ears.

The California State Council of the Service Employees International Union (the largest union in the United States) released this on November 2nd:

By Courtni Sunjoo Pugh
Sunday, November 2, 2008

Over the last several weeks since SEIU's California state
council leadership voted to contribute money to the No on 8 campaign, I've been
asked by quite a few people why a labor union would get involved in the "culture
war" over marriage rights for same-sex couples.

There are two underlying premises to this question: first, that
unions should focus solely on "bread-and-butter" workplace issues such as health
care, retirement, benefits, and wages — and, second, that marriage equality is
unrelated to these issues.

Wrong on both counts.

First, marriage equality is an essential component of basic
dignity and human rights for thousands of SEIU members and their families.
Second, marriage is a bread-and-butter issue.

As a movement, labor learned a long time ago that we had to
unite across our differences — ethnic, cultural, personal, religious — and
support a vision of equality and respect for all, not just in the workplace, but
in every sphere of life. We understand that where we don't have equality, we
have discrimination and discrimination allows us to be divided and conquered.
That's why we are committed to justice for all and equality for all.

It was a struggle to learn that lesson. Many union members felt
threatened and resisted changes that labor made as it came to support the civil
rights movement for racial equality, led by luminaries such as A. Phillip
Randolph. But, ultimately, union members came to the realization that letting
ourselves remain divided by race was holding us back.

In California, we have a proud history of fighting the wedge
politics and the division that would deny any Californian of his or her basic
rights. To cite just one example, my union proudly opposed the anti-immigrant
Proposition 187, which would have kicked immigrant children out of school and
denied them the health care they need.

We take these strong stands because we feel compelled to support
each other and our families when any of us are attacked, discriminated against,
or targeted for unfair treatment.

To address the second mistaken premise: Marriage is a
bread-and-butter issue, just like the issues we fight for at the bargaining
table. Everything from Social Security for a surviving spouse to health benefits
to tax laws are tied to marital status. Domestic partnership maybe welcome step
toward equality, but it is not equality.

Currently, for example, same-sex couples who are domestic
partners and receive health benefits are taxed as if those benefits were income.
If one member of a domestic partnership dies, unlike spouses, the other partner
would be ineligible for Social Security benefits. These are the basic life
supports we all rely on, and domestic partnership doesn't cut it.

Equality will come to California's same-sex couples only when
marriage is secured in California and federal discrimination against these
couples is ended.

That will never happen if Californians choose to tell our
neighbors, aunts, uncles, cousins, children, friends, co-workers and fellow
union members who are gay or lesbian: You are unequal and less than we are. No,
it is better to allow all persons the same rights to pursue happiness and to
live securely. That's what our union and our country is all about.

Courtni Sunjoo Pugh, is executive director of the SEIU
California State Council. She wrote this article for the Mercury News.

This afternoon, we'll be picking the kids up from school and then standing in line for who knows how long to cast our ballots for equality and against hate.

We hope you'll join us.

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