Through speeches, interviews, and commentary, this book chronicles the road toward marriage equality in the United States, edited by former Vermont governor Madeleine Kunin and author and activist Jennifer Baumgardner.
“Baumgardner and Kunin have compiled the writings and public pronouncements of public officials and other figures on the issue of marriage equality . . . This book will serve as a resource for what was said about the struggle.” —New York Journal of Books
“Detail[s] the politicians out there who are good-hearted, decent and basically worth knowing about.” —Detroit Metro Times
“Compiles speeches, interviews and commentary from 1977 through 2013, in which an array of political leaders . . . voice their unconditional support for the queer citizens of the US in their quest for same-sex marriage rights.” —Bay Area Reporter
“Highlights the path politicians have taken from Harvey Milk of San Francisco in 1977 until now, to advance the cause of marriage equality.” —Sun News Miami
“Powerful . . . As Vermont’s governor, Madeleine Kunin was a leader on gay rights years before it was fashionable and years before our state became the first in the country to allow civil unions and, later, gay marriage without a court order. The struggle for gay rights in Vermont was very difficult, divisive, and acrimonious. If you talk to young people today about gay rights or gay marriage, they ask, What was the big deal? Madeleine and Jennifer Baumgardner remind us what a big deal it was and how important it is.” —Bernie Sanders
“The gay marriage movement, like all civil rights movements, began with individuals telling the truth about who they are to a world that doesn’t accept them. It ends with an entire generation of young people who reject blatant civil rights discrimination . . . We Do! triumphantly chronicles this recent chapter.” —New Pages
Included on the American Library Association’s Over the Rainbow Project Book List
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About the Author
Madeleine M. Kunin was the first woman governor of Vermont, and served as the Deputy Secretary of Education and Ambassador to Switzerland under President Bill Clinton. She is the author of Living a Political Life, Pearls, Politics and Power, and The New Feminist Agenda. Currently a Marsh Scholar Professor-at-Large at the University of Vermont, Madeleine lectures on history and women's studies. She also serves as president of the board of the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC), a nongovernmental organization that she founded in 1991. She lives in Burlington, Vermont.
Jennifer Baumgardner is the producer/creator of the award-winning film I Had an Abortion (distributed by Women Make Movies), the t-shirt project of that same name, and a book about women's experiences of abortion called Abortion & Life (Akashic Books, 2008). Her book, Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics (FSG, 2007), was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. She coauthored Manifesta and Grassroots, both best-selling Third Wave classics. Jennifer writes regularly for women's magazines like Glamour, Elle, Allure, Redbook, and Real Simple, as well as more political outlets such as the Nation, the New York Times, Harper's and NPR's All Things Considered. She was writer in residence at the New School, Eugene Lang College, where she taught writing and journalism for several years and was editor of The Feminist Classics series at Farrar, Straus & Giroux, which introduces early women's liberation hits such as The Dialectic of Sex and Memoirs of an Ex Prom Queen to a new generation. She recently released a collection of essays called F’em!: Goo Goo, Gaga, and Some Thoughts on Balls (Seal Press) and just completed a documentary called It Was Rape. As the cofounder and owner of Soapbox Inc., a feminist speaker's bureau, Jennifer created (with Amy Richards) Feminist Camp--a one-week immersion program that brings feminists from across the country to NYC to learn from leading activists and each other. She has won numerous awards for her activism, is widely course-adopted, and had keynoted at more than 250 colleges and universities in the last decade. Originally from Fargo, North Dakota, Jennifer lives in New York with her husband and two sons.
Read an Excerpt
SUPERVISOR HARVEY MILK (1930 —1978)
"The closet" doesn't just connote the shame of having to lie about one's identity and life. A closet is the small, dark, enclosed space where we keep things that we don't want to look at. Thus, coming out of the closet is more than truth-telling; it's entering the world and, with the act of being seen and reckoned with, changing society. After the Stonewall riots of 1969 debuted the rebellion against government-sponsored persecution, gay people were increasingly visible and becoming bolder. The next year, lesbians staged a zap at the Second Congress to Unite Women, wearing T- shirts emblazoned with the words Lavender Menace and signaling that lesbians wouldn't be in the closet for feminism. By 1973, the American Psychiatric Association announced the removal of homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and began to promote antidiscrimination laws to protect LGBT Americans.
This was the world to which the first openly gay nonincumbent man to be elected to public office belonged, caught between exhilarating openness and high-stakes backlash. Long before there was debate about gay people in the military, Harvey Milk served honorably in the United States Navy on active duty during the Korean War. In 1972, Milk moved from New York to San Francisco and, with his boyfriend Scott Smith, opened a camera shop on Castro Street, an emerging gay neighborhood. Provoked by disgust over Watergate and buoyed by an exciting out gay community, Milk decided to run for office. Veterans of campaigns often say some version of "If you've run for office and lost only once, you haven't run for office." The trick to winning is to not be deterred by your loss from running again. By the time Milk won the race for San Francisco city supervisor in 1977, he had run three times.
The world of Harvey Milk was partly one of great change and freedom, as countless minorities — women, people with disabilities, people of color — began organizing for their human rights. Milk's tenure coincided not only with a movement steadily gaining momentum, but also with the beginnings of the organized anti —gay rights movement.
For instance, on January 18, 1977, Florida's Dade County Commission voted 5 to 3 to enact an ordinance banning discrimination against gays in employment, housing, and public accommodations. This was the first time a Southern city passed a gay rights law. That year alone, gay rights bills and ordinances were passed in more than forty cities and antidiscrimination bills emerged in twenty-eight state legislatures. The year 1977 looked as though it would usher in legal recourse to gays who were vulnerable to harm in every area of life and might end perpetrators' utter impunity. There was hope that cultural attitudes had shifted so that gay people could come out without fear of reprisal.
But 1977 also saw the rise of the organized backlash. A former Miss America runner-up, pop singer, born-again Christian, and Florida Citrus Commission's orange juice promoter Anita Bryant attended a revival at Miami's Northside Baptist Church. The preacher there railed against the new Dade County ordinance that protected gay people against discrimination. Bryant established the group Save Our Children, attracting media outlets with her celebrity status and spreading her slogan, Homosexuals cannot reproduce so they must recruit. Vilifying gays as child molesters, rapists, and homosexual "recruiters," Bryant collected sixty-five thousand signatures, more than six times the amount needed, on petitions to repeal the law. Gay advocates and groups were not prepared for the political onslaught, intense organizing, and fear-mongering.
On June 7, 1977, known as Orange Tuesday, the ordinance was repealed by 69 percent of Dade County voters in a special ballot election. This defeat set off a wave of repeals of nondiscrimination ordinances in 1978 in St. Paul, Minnesota, Wichita, Kansas, and Eugene, Oregon. On the heels of these repeals, State Senator John Briggs sponsored Proposition 6 to ban homosexuals from teaching in public schools in California. The Briggs proposition ultimately failed, but some gay teachers and gay public officials still lost their jobs during this time of fomenting hatred. In the face of this bigotry, gay rights advocates gained strength and strategies. They protested Anita Bryant's appearances (including the very first "pie-ing" incident on live TV), forced her sponsors to retract their support through boycotts of any company even rumored to be promoting Save Our Children, and fervently boycotted all Bryant-endorsed products. By 1980, the Florida Citrus Commission did not renew Bryant's contract.
Harvey Milk didn't have a chance to savor Bryant's eventual fall from grace. Less than a year after Supervisor Milk was elected, he and Mayor George Moscone were killed by former Board of Supervisors colleague Dan White. White served five years for the double murder, but Milk's tragic death — as his fame and influence were escalating — ensured his place in history. His brief career in public life marked the beginning of progay electoral politics. Milk demonstrated, in words and deeds, the power of having a "face" on an issue. Visibility is the first step toward liberation. Milk understood how even protest is a good sign for gay people, because it indicates that they are here, queer, and gaining ground.
The "Hope" speech which follows was Milk's stump speech, delivered often as he built his branch of the strong, gorgeous, and always-growing tree of human rights.
The "Hope" Speech1.
July 24, 1977
My name is Harvey Milk and I'm here to recruit you. I've been saying this one for years. It's a political joke. I can't help it — I've got to tell it. I've never been able to talk to this many political people before, so if I tell you nothing else you may be able to go home laughing a bit.
This ocean liner was going across the ocean and it sank. And there was one little piece of wood floating and three people swam to it and they realized only one person could hold onto it. So they had a little debate about who was the person. It so happened that the three people were the pope, the president, and Mayor Daley. The pope said he was the titular head of one of the greatest religions of the world and he was spiritual adviser to many, many millions, and he went on and pontificated and they thought it was a good argument. Then the president said he was leader of the largest and most powerful nation of the world. What takes place in this country affects the whole world, and they thought that was a good argument. And Mayor Daley said he was mayor of the backbone of the United States and what took place in Chicago affected the world, and what took place in the archdiocese of Chicago affected Catholicism. And they thought that was a good argument. So they did it the democratic way and voted. And Daley won, 7 to 2.
About six months ago, Anita Bryant in her speaking to God said that the drought in California was because of the gay people. On November 9, the day after I got elected, it started to rain. On the day I got sworn in, we walked to City Hall and it was kind of nice, and as soon as I said the word "I do," it started to rain again. It's been raining since then and the people of San Francisco figure the only way to stop it is to do a recall petition. That's the local joke.
But so much for that ... Why are we here? Why are gay people here? And what's happening? What's happening to me is the antithesis of what you read about in the papers and what you hear about on the radio. You hear about and read about this movement to the right, that we must band together and fight back this movement to the right. The major media in this country has talked about the movement to the right so the legislators think that there is indeed a movement to the right and that the Congress and the legislators and the city councils will start to move to the right the way the major media want them. So they keep on talking about this move to the right. And I'm here to go ahead and say that what you hear and read is what they want you to think because it's not happening.
Let's look at 1977 and see if there was indeed a move to the right. In 1977, gay people had their rights taken away from them in Miami. But you must remember that in the week before Miami and the week after that, the word homosexual or gay appeared in every single newspaper in this nation in articles both pro and con; in every radio station, in every TV station, and in every household. For the first time in the history of the world, everybody was talking about it, good or bad. Unless you have dialogue, unless you open the walls of dialogue, you can never reach to change people's opinion. In those two weeks, more good and bad, but more about the words homosexual and gay was written than probably in the history of mankind. Once you have dialogue starting, you know you can break down prejudice. In 1977, we saw a dialogue start. In 1977, we saw a gay person elected in San Francisco. In 1977, we saw the state of Mississippi decriminalize marijuana. In 1977, we saw the convention of conventions in Houston. And I want to know where the movement to the right is happening.
What that is, is a record of what happened last year. What we must do is make sure that 1978 continues the movement that is really happening that the media don't want you to know about — and that is the movement to the left. It's up to the California Democratic Council to put the pressures on Sacramento, to break down the walls and the barriers so the movement to the left continues and progress continues in the nation. We have before us several issues on which we must speak out. Probably the most important issue outside the Briggs — which we will come to — is an issue on the ballot called Jarvis-Gann [which reduced property taxes and unfairly penalized those who don't own]. We hear the taxpayers talk about it on both sides. But what you don't hear is that it's probably the most racist issue on the ballot in a long time. In the city and county of San Francisco, if it passes and we indeed have to lay off people, who will they be? The last in, the first in — and who are the last in but the minorities? Jarvis-Gann is a racist issue. We must address that issue. We must not talk away from it. We must not allow them to talk about the money it's going to save, because look at who's going to save the money and who's going to get hurt.
We also have another issue that we've started on in some of the north counties, and I hope in some of the south counties it continues. In San Francisco elections we're asking — at least we hope to ask — that the US government put pressure on the closing of the South African consulate. That must happen. There is a major difference between an embassy in Washington, which is a diplomatic bureau, and a consulate in major cities. A consulate is there for one reason only — to promote business, economic gains, tourism, investment. And every time you have business going to South Africa, you're promoting an apartheid regime that's offensive.
In the city of San Francisco, if every one of 51 percent of that city were to go to South Africa, they would be treated as second-class citizens. That is an offense to the people of San Francisco and I hope all my colleagues up there will take every step we can to close down that consulate and hope that people in other parts of the state follow us in that lead. The battles must be started someplace and CDC is the greatest place to start the battles.
We are pressed for time so I'm going to cover just one more little point. That is to understand why it is important that gay people run for office and that gay people get elected. I know there are many people in this room who are running for central committee who are gay. I encourage you and there's a major reason why. If my non-gay friends and supporters in this room understand it, then they probably understand why I've run so often before I finally made it. You see, right now there's a controversy going on in this convention about the gay governor. Is he speaking out enough? Is he strong enough for gay rights? There is controversy — and for us to say there is not would be foolish. Some people are satisfied and some people are not.
You see, there is a major difference — and it remains a vital difference — between a friend and a gay person. There is a vital difference between a friend in office and a gay person in office. Gay people have been slandered nationwide. We've been tarred and we've been brushed with the picture of pornography. In Dade County, we were accused of child molestation. It's not enough anymore just to have friends represent us. No matter how good that friend may be.
The black community made up its mind to that a long time ago — that the myths against blacks can only be dispelled by electing black leaders, so the black community could be judged by the leaders and not by the myths or black criminals. The Spanish community must not be judged by Latin criminals or myths. The Asian community must not be judged by Asian criminals or myths. The Italian community must not be judged by the Mafia myths. And the time has come when the gay community not be judged by our criminals and myths.
Like every other group, we gay people must be judged by our leaders — by those who are gay and visible. For invisible, we remain in limbo — a myth, a person with no parents, no brothers, no sisters, no friends who are straight, no important positions in employment. A tenth of the nation supposedly composed of stereotypes and would-be seducers of children — and no offense meant to the stereotypes. But today, the black community is not judged by its friends, but by its black legislators and leaders. And we must give people the chance to judge us by our leaders and legislators. A gay person in office can set a tone, can command respect not only from the larger community, but also from the young people in our own community who need both examples and hope.
The first gay people we elect must be strong. They must not be content to sit in the back of the bus. They must not be content to accept pablum. They must be above wheeling and dealing. They must be — for the good of all of us — independent, unbought. The anger and the frustrations that some of us feel is because we are misunderstood, and friends can't feel the anger and frustration. They can sense it in us, but they can't feel it. Because a friend has never gone through what is known as coming out. I will never forget what it was like coming out and having nobody to look up toward. I remember the lack of hope — and our friends can't fulfill [that need].
I can't forget the looks on faces of people who've lost hope. Be they gay, be they seniors, be they blacks looking for an almost-impossible job, be they Latinos trying to explain their problems and aspirations in a tongue that's foreign to them.
I use the word I because I'm proud. I stand here tonight in front of my gay sisters, brothers, and friends because I'm proud of you. I think it's time that we have many legislators who are gay and proud of that fact and do not have to remain in the closet. I think that a gay person, up-front, will not walk away from a responsibility and be afraid of being tossed out of office. After Dade County, I walked among the angry and the frustrated night after night and I looked at their faces. In San Francisco, three days before Gay Pride Day, a person was killed just because he was gay. And that night, I walked among the sad and the frustrated at City Hall in San Francisco and later that night as they lit candles on Castro Street and stood in silence, reaching out for some symbolic thing that would give them hope. These were strong people, whose faces I knew from the shop, the streets, meetings and people who I never saw before but I knew. They were strong, but even they needed hope.
And the young gay people in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias, and the Richmond, Minnesotas, who are coming out and hear Anita Bryant on television — the only thing they have to look forward to is hope. You have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped — the us'es, the us'es will give up.
If you help elect more gay people to the central committee and other offices, that gives a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward. It means hope to a nation that has given up, because if a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone.
So if there is a message I have to give, it is that I've found one overriding thing about my personal election and it's the fact that if a gay person can be elected, it's a green light.
You and you and you, you have to give people hope.
Thank you very much.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "We Do! American Leaders Who Believe in Marriage Equality"
Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Baumgardner & Governer Madeleine M. Kunin.
Excerpted by permission of Akashic Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction by Jennifer Baumgardner,
PART I: Becoming Visible,
Supervisor Harvey Milk, The "Hope" Speech, 1977,
Virginia Apuzzo, "Creating Change," 1988,
Andrew Sullivan, "Here Comes the Groom," 1989,
PART II: The Personal Becomes Political,
David Mixner, "The Story of Self-Hatred," 1993,
Defense of Marriage Act Congressional Debates, 1996,
Representative Gerry Studds, "That Is Not True of My Partner," 1996,
Representative Bill Lippert, "Don't Tell Me What Love Is," 2000,
Evan Wolfson, "The Scary Work of Winning," 2004,
Senator Tammy Baldwin, "Dear President Obama," 2010,
Senator John Kerry, "Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act," 2011,
PART III: From Seeing Change to Sea Change,
Mayor Gavin Newsom, Marriage Licenses, 2004,
Prominent Politicians Dare to Evolve,
Representative Bob Barr, Speech to Log Cabin Republicans, 2011,
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, "The Urgent Need for Marriage Equality," 2011,
Governor Andrew Cuomo, "A New Level of Social Justice," 2011,
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Human Rights Day Speech, 2011,
Mayor Cory Booker, "To Me This Is Infuriating," 2012,
President Bill Clinton, "Can We All Do Better?" 2013,
AFTERWORD: "A Slow Gathering of Courage" by Governer Madeleine M. Kunin,
Marriage Equality Time Line,
Marriage Eqaulity Resource Guide,
About the Editors,
About Akashic Books,