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Archive for March, 2009

One Court Can Effect the Nation

Posted by amy On March - 31 - 2009

Yesterday, Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry posted an amazing article clearly defining the implications of Proposition 8, if the California Supreme Court chooses to uphold it.  Evan drives the point home that we have all said time and time again: If Proposition 8 is upheld, it sets a precedence in this country that a simple majority can vote on the rights of any minority group.  Though we keep saying this, his article sends the point home in a way that pinpoints the severity of Proposition 8.

Think about it this way: If Prop 8 sticks, then there is nothing stopping the KKK from rallying together to put something on the ballot that takes away the rights of the African American Community.  A state would be able to choose to take away voting rights of women.  Hell, maybe the next ballot initiative will be to take the LGBTQ community back to a pre-Stonewall era where we could get arrested just for holding hands with our partner!  Yes these may be extreme, but the California Supreme Court has the power to say that anyone can rally a simple majority to strip rights of any minority.  Our Constitution is meant to protect all of us… even from each other.  While many who voted for Proposition 8 did so because they felt that they were protecting the word “marriage,” the vast implications of what they perceived to be good intentions, were left in a black box only to be opened now.

I consistently come back to Jim Crow laws here; a time when a man and woman who loved each other, could not legally marry based on the color of their skin.  At the time, the same “moral” arguments were used to protect the word “marriage.”  And, as Evan so eloquently puts it:

…the “essence” of which, the California Supreme Court explained in 1948 when it became the first court in the U.S. with the courage to strike down race restrictions on marriage, is the right “to join in marriage with the person of one’s choice,” the person who to you may be “irreplaceable.” Imagine what California and our country would look like today had that court flinched in the face of the 90% disapproval of the then-majority. Imagine what the Constitution would look like if a mere majority could always cement inequality or a selective denial of fundamental rights into it, without even the procedural protection of the deliberative revision process the people themselves set forth.

So what will you do on the Day of Decision (D-Day)?  We all hope that we’ll be celebrating in the streets, but are we prepared for the worst?  If the California Supreme Court upholds Proposition 8, then all minorities are at risk.  Will you be ready to fight for your rights?  Will you be prepared to fight for the rights of all minorities?  Will you be ready for the next ballot initiative – The one that is in your own back yard?  Proposition 8 is not just a California issue.  It is not just a marriage issue.  And it is NOT just an LGBTQ issue!  Join the many organizations that are gathering on D-Day.  Prepare your city, your friends, your family, and your powerful voice for what might happen next.

You Have a Voice – Use It

Posted by amy On March - 25 - 2009

Yesterday, on 99 Problems, Sarah Silverman expressed a problem: The fact that we don’t have gay marriage in this country is embarrassing.  Willow Witte, co-founder of Join the Impact, provides a  solution to the problem: Stand Up. Be Visible. Work Together Against ALL Oppression…We ALL Have a Voice, Let’s Use Them!

Day Of Decision

Posted by admin On March - 17 - 2009

DayOfDecision.org is calling for a national response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Prop 8.  We cannot predict when this ruling will come down, we can only prepare our cities for a place and time to meet on D-Day (Day of Decision).  JTI has joined as just one of many co-sponsors to Robin Tyler’s DayOfDecision.org.  We are lending our resources and are asking any of our members and organizers interested to help out.  The CA Supreme Court will give us only 24 hours notice before they announce their decision.  We need to be prepared to respond, and hope that this is a response of celebration rather than protest.  Moving forward, we all must work together to fight for equality on a national level… we have begun this, but we must harness this, learn from our mistakes, and keep moving forward.  The world is buzzing with the word “equality.”  So many amazing conversations are happening (Check HERE and Checkout Tell-Three.org as well).  DayOfDecision.org is about continuing this momentum.  We must come together as a community and mourn our losses, while never backing down, and celebrate our wins, while knowing that there are more to come.

Here’s the Press Release:

Join the Impact Responds to the Call for DayOfDecision.org Co-Sponsors

NATIONAL – In the near future, the California Supreme Court will announce its decision on whether or not to repeal Proposition 8.  The ruling could come down as early as this week, and as late as June 5th. When this time comes, it will either be a moment of protest or celebration for the LGBTQ community.  To respond to both possible outcomes, grassroots activists Robin Tyler and Andy Thayer are calling for Day of Decision activities across the US. Join the Impact and many other national organizations are adding their support and resources to the national effort.

“We have over 200 amazing organizers across the country who are eager to respond to Proposition 8” says Willow Witte, co-founder and Executive Director of Join the Impact.  The California Supreme Court will give 24 hours notice before reading its decision, but Witte is confident that with proper planning, 24 hours will be enough time for organizers to rally their base.

“I’m hoping that the day is one of celebration in the streets,” says Amy Balliett, co-founder and Communications Director of Join the Impact.  “If it is not, then the California Supreme Court will set an unhealthy precedent in this country; One that allows the majority to vote on the rights of the minority, and take a minority out of the Constitution.”

Along with their organizers, Join the Impact has also lent its virtual organizing platform to the mix by re-creating their November 15th Wetpaint tool for DayOfDecision.org.  This tool (http://dayofdecision.wetpaint.com), will allow organizers to update their city pages with event information, and will allow all who sign up the chance to be notified of their city’s actions almost immediately.

Robin Tyler and Andy Thayer are seasoned activists when it comes to events like this.  They called for national action by organizing celebrations in 50 cities for the Federal Supreme Court Day of Decision regarding Lawrence v Texas, the decision that struck down sodomy laws across the nation.  Tens of thousands of activists were on the streets, from Alaska to Hawaii to Puerto Rico and all over the mainland.  Robin Tyler has been the main stage producer for 3 marches on Washington and she and her partner, Diane Olson were the first lesbian plaintiffs in the California Supreme Court Marriage Equality case in 2008.  They are also petitioners in the recent California Supreme Court case to overturn Proposition 8.

To get involved in Day of Decision activities, go to DayOfDecision.org and sign up to organize.  To stay informed about a local Day of Decision event in your area, go to http://dayofdecision.wetpaint.com and navigate to your state and then city pages to stay informed.  Joining the site will put you on the national mailing list to receive a call to action the day the decision is read.

The Eve of Justice

Posted by amy On March - 9 - 2009

What an amazing video from Sean Chapin, whom I regretfully did not get a chance to meet when I was in SF on Thursday.  Sean has captured this movement on film in many wonderful ways and has been nominated for an award because of his use of video to push this movement forward!  This video captures the Eve of Justice that occured on Wednesday March 4th.  It makes a profound statement regarding how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go.  There are many sacrifices along the way, which Cleve Jones expresses as he speaks.  What we must take from this is that with our hard work and our love will come success!  WE WILL PREVAIL!

Beyond California

Posted by amy On March - 9 - 2009

Prop 8 is a huge fight that we have going on when it comes to equal rights for members of the LGBTQ community.  When JTI began, we called for everyone around the nation (and the world) to unite as one voice for equal rights.  We explained that Proposition 8 is much more than California’s problem.  If Prop 8 is not repealed, it sets a precedent that the majority can vote on the rights of the minority.  As argued on Thursday, it states that people who are NOT affected by a lack of rights, can choose to keep those rights from a suspect class.  This is appalling.  California is a HUGE battleground right now which we will all continue to be a part of.  Beyond California, there are many many issues at stake that we all need to support and take actions on.

  • Only 13 states have laws protecting LGBTQ citizens from employment discrimination based on sexual or gender identity.
  • There are 7 more states that protect LGB citizens, but do not protect Transgendered citizens from employment discrimination.  Soon we will all come together to support a federal ENDA law that secures equal protections in the work space.
  • Throughout the country, families are at risk of deportation because we can not legally sponsor our partner to become a citizen of the US.  The Uniting American Families Act has been reintroduced to Congress, and we encourage you to call your representative and ask that they support this act and support our families!
  • In the state of Washington (my current home) a Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill has been introduced and will hit the Senate and House this week.  This bill will give Washington LGBTQ citizens protections under the law at a state-wide level that are equal to the state-wide protections of marriage. Those who oppose same-sex civil protections are stating that this law (which again uses the semantics of Domestic Partnership) is seeking to redefine the word marriage, even though we are not.  They are taking action and we need to respond by educating our representatives on the realities of this bill and how it will help us.
  • In the state of Hawaii, another battle surges as our LGBTQ brothers and sisters fight for Civil Unions.  The opposition has come out in full force and Hawaii needs you!  If you are from Hawaii or know someone who is, please contact your representative (or ask your friend to) and ask that they support HB444.
  • HB2234 is going to the House floor for a vote in Illinois.  This same-sex civil union bill does not grant all of the state-wide rights of marriage, but it does grant some very important protections.  Please take action by contacting your representative (if in Illinois) and asking that they support this bill.
  • Here’s a great state by state breakdown on LGBTQ adoption rights.  Clearly we have work to do.  With an average of 500,000 children needing families every year, only 50,000 get adopted.  In a country where so many go without family, why do we have to fight to provide safety, shelter, and parental care?
  • Despite the evolutions in the field of science, we still live in a country where gay and bisexual men cannot donate blood.  This ban on blood donations began with the AIDS crisis and a fear that blood donations would be tainted with the disease.  According to the CDC, the incidence of AIDS is lowering in gay and bisexual men and raising in the heterosexual community.  Yet this ban does not extend to members of the heterosexual community.  A JTI member and amazing organizer for many great grassroots groups has worked hard on this front with her program called the Right to Save.  She is calling for national actions on May 16th 2009 to send a message to the FDA that this policy is discriminatory.
  • These are just a FEW of the many battles brewing in this EQUAL RIGHTS MOVEMENT.  Add more in the comments and let’s organize together to work toward winning these battles and our equal protections under the law.

A JTI Weakness

Posted by amy On March - 7 - 2009

This afternoon, I was running errands looking for the proper attire for a black tie event.  I’m going to an LGBTQ gala tonight and it’s formal, but the only dress I have is my wedding dress and my fashion sense is slim to none.  Anywho, I digress.  As I was trying to find a black tie (because I just can’t bring myself to wear a dress), I got a text message saying “Why didn’t I know that there was a JTI event today???”  My response was “What JTI event today?  There wasn’t one.”  The next response “The fliers said it was a JTI event.”

Herein lies a weakness of JTI.  We organize in the virtual space for the most part.  We talk online, text message, email, and call each other.  Willow and I barely see each other in person.  In fact, in San Francisco on Thursday, we saw each other for only the 2nd time since the launch of JTI.  Organizing online can sometimes lead to mixed messages.  JTI-national did not have any event today, but some of our organizers may have chosen to have an event in their city for something local.  JTI seeks to empower our members to stand up for what they believe in locally and nationally.  Because of this, sometimes there will be events that a member holds that Willow and I or JTI-national are not a part of.  Most of our organizers follow the protocol of checking in before listing JTI as endorsing an event that is not officially a JTI event.

So, this text message led me to thinking about this weakness, and wondering how we can fix it.  We do have an Official JTI Events page that speaks to events or protests endorsed, hosted, or sponsored by JTI.  We have an Other Events page, which speaks to events that we want to help get the word out on, but they are not run by, hosted by, endorsed, or sponsored by us.  Still, there seems to be confusion out there, and we’re curious about how you think we should help to clear up this confusion?  We do not want to become an organization that makes all the decisions of what to do, without listening to the needs of our members. This is why we’ve used The IMPACT the way we do and why we do not treat our organizers like employees… these organizers are what make us a success, we do not make them a success, and we want our actions to show our appreciation for them.  We will NEVER tell our organizers that they cannot have an event without our approval.  So how do we clear up the confusion when an event is held in our name, that isn’t actually one JTI is behind or even aware of?

We want to continue learning from you and working with and for you.  Willow is at Camp Courage today.  She is learning how to help provide more support for our organizers so that we can better serve you.  That is one step, but we know there are more.  So what do you think?

March 5th Watch Online

Posted by amy On March - 4 - 2009

Just a quick update to everyone who can’t make it to SF on Thursday.  You can watch the opening arguments online at www.calchannel.com. Everything starts at 9am PST (that’s 6am EST so hopefully you’re an early bird).

It’s not too late to setup a viewing party.  Many local theaters around the country have announced that they are willing to show the streaming video at 9am PST sharp, if enough people will come.  Call your local theater or gay bar and ask that they open their doors early to show this event to the masses!

The voice of this movement

Posted by willow On March - 3 - 2009

Over the last week I’ve been continually inspired by the work of some college students in California who dream big. I can’t wait to meet them all in San Francisco on Thursday because it is EXACTLY this kind of energy that the movement for equality needs to support if we’re going to win. One of them, Urvi Nagrani, posted this on her facebook page and gave me permission to share it with you.

When the verdict is announced for the case to overturn prop 8, I do not want to feel the way I felt on November 5th. This is why I have been motivated to act.


I worked on the case against prop 8 in as intense a way as I felt I could – but looking at it now, I didn’t do enough. I made some calls, talked to friends, phone banked a few times, wore a button, posted a yard sign, put a bumper sticker on my backpack, had a few debates, and did all the basics – but I never stood above the crowd. I was just another supporter of a campaign which I hoped would succeed.

But when it failed I felt as if the wind had been knocked out of me and I erupted into tears. It might sound melodramatic, but when prop 8 passed I felt like my identity as a Californian shattered as I realized we weren’t as progressive as I’d like to believe. Sitting on the losing side I for the first time saw myself as a minority. I had always considered my identity as Californian first, and to me that included the idea of a progressive, educated, community oriented citizen. But those two identities no longer melded and suddenly I felt the need to define myself with many more words. After being dragged out of an election party where we’d been celebrating Obama’s victory, I found myself crying in disbelief wondering, “Why?” I blamed myself for not doing enough. I got angry at those around me who couldn’t relate. I became too defensive to listen to the mislead moderates who after talking to I found more understanding than I could have believed that night. I became a reactionary protester who’s only means of expression was dismay. And I don’t want to feel that way again.

So now I’m being proactive. On March 5th I’m going to go to San Francisco not to protest injustice, but to support rectifying the problem. I will stand for equality and civil rights rather than allowing myself to play the role of the victim. And I invite you to join me.

This March we Californians have an opportunity to show the judges we value equality and will support them if they restore it to our laws.

A lot of people say we should wait until 2010 and when we’ll vote again and hopefully win and since 8 is going to be overturned eventually we don’t need to be out there. But if we repeal 8 by that method and this case stands, we’ve still failed because we set legal precedent that it’s okay to remove rights through a simple majority. Which means every election cycle we’ll be playing the same game and spending millions of dollars to determine what rights are to be given. At which point rights aren’t assumed, they’re granted. Rights become privileges and not rights. An idea which offends my idea of what it means to live in a constitutional democratic republic. I like the idea of limits to democracy, and representational government over direct majority rule. And if we say the constitution is a flexible guideline that can be destroyed by a simple majority vote – that enables so many dangerous possibilities.

To quote Benjamin Franklin, “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” Those who say they’re defending traditional marriage are clinging to the security of tradition, and sacrificing civil liberties to achieve that. I don’t expect by the end of this week that everyone who voted Yes on 8 will magically agree with me, but I want to get enough of them to see the risk of legally not protecting civil liberties. This isn’t an issue of Republican versus Democrat – this is an issue of what it means to respect civil rights and the equality of citizens under the law. I hope you take the time out of your schedule and pause to think of these issues before deciding you can’t skip a class – because this is bigger than just another day and just another rally. This is our last chance to have a voice before setting or breaking a dangerous legal precedent. Furthermore California has always been a somewhat progressive state, and if we digress, what will the non-progressive states look like?

I made it through my educational career without ever cutting class. (I do not count excused absences or being ill as cutting) But I will be absent on Wednesday and Thursday. I can think of no single day in my educational career that was worth more than this case will mean. If you can’t be there, I hope you will still give your active support and help invite people to the event! We need to do something above and beyond what’s been done before – after all we don’t want to ask ourselves on March 5th, “Why didn’t I do more?”

In cities throughout the country people like Urvi have been looking forward at what they are going to do to stand up for their rights. Every day you are all what inspires me and what motivates me to keep moving and do everything in my power to keep this movement alive beyond Prop 8, beyond equal marriage rights and to never ever give up. For that inspiration, and that continuing support, visible courage, and constant joy that serving you brings me- from the depths of my soul- THANK YOU.

And thanks to Perez Hilton for voicing his admiration too!

JUMBOTRON! JUMBOTRON! JUMBOTRON! ;-)

Speaking of students- they’ll be participating all over the country by joining us in wearing white on the 5th

This Weeks Events

Posted by amy On March - 2 - 2009

There are MANY events going on surrounding the March 5th opening arguments and this video highlights some of the biggest ones.  MANY grassroots orgs are coming together to make this happen.  Our COMMUNITY is comming together to make this happen.  Come to SF if you can on the 4th and 5th.  If you cannot, please light a candle on the 4th and wear white on the 5th to show your support for the 18,000 marriages in limbo, and the many marriages to come in the future.