Dear Mr. Governator…

Wockner has an open letter so good, I copied it, changed it up some, printed it out and sent it to Ahnold.

Dear Gov. Schwarzenegger,

As the bill legalizing same-sex marriage in California sits on your desk for the second time in three years, I wonder…

How do you want to be remembered?

What do you want people to say about you 20 or 50 years from now?

Do you want to be remembered like Gov. Pete Wilson? As someone who did the wrong thing when presented with a historic opportunity? As someone who, for purely political reasons, blocked, for a few more years, an inevitable civil rights advance?

Surely you remember Pete's veto of California's first gay anti-discrimination bill in 1991. You were here in California then.

I know you know Pete did the wrong thing, because you have signed a whole bunch of gay rights bills since you've been governor — making California a fairer place where gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people finally now are almost equal citizens.

Almost. Because we still can't get married. Because you vetoed the same-sex marriage bill that our elected Assembly members and senators passed in 2005.

Now they've passed it yet again, and there it sits on your desk beside your beautiful humidor.

I hope you realize this is likely the last thing of any significance that we gays are going to ask of you. Because when you let us get married, our 40-year battle for equal rights will have come to an end in California. Because we'll finally have full legal equality. And it's all up to you, Sir.

You know, when Pete vetoed that gay rights bill in 1991, gays rioted in San Francisco and Los Angeles. And there were huge protests in San Diego, West Hollywood and Sacramento.

We should have taken to the streets again in 2005 (peacefully, of course) when you decided, for your own political reasons, to veto a bill passed by our elected representatives that finally would have allowed us to no longer be second-class citizens.

I say "political reasons" because I know you're not personally anti-gay. You have nothing against us. You have gay high-level staff. You've actually signed more gay-equality bills than any governor in U.S. history. Did you know that? And you've even actually said you're not personally opposed to same-sex marriage.

I say political reasons because you must have vetoed that bill to avoid upsetting that certain percentage of anti-gay bigots who cling to the California Republican Party. You must want something from them down the road.

I don't know what that might be. Some folks have said you might want to run for the U.S. Senate, and don't want to provoke the anti-gay bigots to run someone against you in a Republican primary election.

But when the history books are written, Governor, the anti-gay bigots are going to be remembered in the same way we remember racists today. As an embarrassment from a less-enlightened, less-evolved era of U.S. history. I know you don't want to be in the same chapter as George Wallace in a textbook students will read 50 years from now.

I know you don't want to have happen to you what happened to poor Pete Wilson last month in San Diego.

Some folks got together and built a statue of Pete, privately funded, on private property, in the heart of downtown. They wanted to say thank you to him for his key role in the revitalization of San Diego's downtown core when he was mayor here.

Pete came for the lovely ceremony in Horton Square. But he didn't get to hear much of it. And neither did the hundreds of well-heeled guests who came to thank him.

That's because there were hundreds of protesters less than 100 feet away banging on drums, yelling through bullhorns and chanting, "Tear down the statue, tear down the hate" and "Pete Wilson's gotta go: Racist, sexist, homophobe."

The protesters were Latinos and gays.

The gays carried signs reading, "We remember AB 101." That was the simple gay rights bill that Pete vetoed in 1991, thereby leaving gays unprotected from discrimination in California for eight more years until another governor finally signed it.

The Latino protesters remembered, all too well, Prop 187. That was the unconstitutional immigrant-bashing ballot initiative that Pete championed and voters passed in 1994.

Yup, that's right. Voters have been known to use the ballot initiative process to do dumb things, wrong things, even unconstitutional things — things that people in the future will look back on with horror.

When you vetoed the same-sex marriage bill in 2005, you cited another ballot initiative passed by voters — one that prohibits California from recognizing same-sex marriages conducted in places where same-sex marriage is legal — like Canada, like Massachusetts, and Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and South Africa.

You said you didn't like the idea of the Legislature being the ones to legalize same-sex marriage. You said it should be up to the voters, or to the courts.

But did you know that when the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage there, all the anti-gay bigots screamed that this was activist judges run amok — and that the matter should have been decided by the Massachusetts Legislature?

I guess you know that. I guess you know all this. I happen to agree with the anti-gay bigots in Massachusetts that having our elected representatives legalize same-sex marriage is a better way to go about it than having the state Supreme Court do it, which may well happen here in California in just a few months anyway.

We elect the Assembly members and senators to represent us. If Californians had been so horribly outraged that our elected representatives voted for same-sex marriage in 2005, then California voters would have retaliated against those legislators who voted for marriage equality.

But voters didn't. And this year's same-sex marriage bill got more votes in the Legislature than the one in 2005 did.

I actually have more to say, Sir, but I'm at the word limit imposed by my editor. So let me end where I started. I wonder, Mr. Schwarzenegger: How do you want to be remembered?

Rex Wockner
San Diego

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Richard
    Sep 17, 2007 @ 17:07:00

    One can only hope that He will do the right thing. What better to be remembered for then a same sex marriage bill.

    Reply

  2. snoringKatZ
    Sep 17, 2007 @ 18:06:00

    Hope he's listening – that would be novel for an elected official these days. (But I'm bitter…)

    Reply

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