Equal Rights for All… or Just Some?

by: Matt O’Brien

LP National Intern

University of New Orleans Political Science Major

    On May 26th 2009, the California Supreme Court upheld a constitutional amendment originally passed by voters declaring that the only marriage legally recognized within the state of California was that between a man and a woman. Months of tireless campaigning by opponents of Proposition 8, along with the gay community, amounted to disappointment and outrage with the subsequent decision. However, proponents of Proposition 8 were thoroughly pleased that their efforts had paid off. Although, the ‘Yes on 8’ campaign managed to cleverly disguise its moral cause as a front to corruption, extortion, and hypocrisy.

    The ‘Yes on 8’ campaign is spearheaded by an executive committee which includes  Chairman Ron Prentice; Edward Dolejsi, Executive Director of the California Catholic Conference; Mark Jansson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and Andrew Pugno, a lawyer for ProtectMarriage.com.  Each of these men is responsible for the deprivation of marriage equality in the state of California. Unbeknownst to or ignored by the public were some of the deceitful tactics previously used by these men to attain their goals.

    Ron Prentice, the Executive Director of the Non-Profit California Family Council, received over $3 million for his organization to, “protect and foster Judeo-Christian principles in California’s laws," between 2003 and 2006.  Of the $3 million in charitable donations Prentice and Pete Henderson, Prentice’s cohort and Director of Strategic Programs, pocketed over $1.1 million.  Meanwhile the other employees within the organization received a combined total of over $800,000 in compensation.  However, “according to its federal tax returns, little more than $500,000 of that money has gone to ‘program services,’ or expenses directly related to that charitable work.”  As it turns out, instead of dedicating the donations to promised program services, Prentice and Henderson decided to line their pockets with the money instead, and used only 18% percent of the donations for the originally intended purpose. Apparently gay bashing and discrimination has become an easy way to amass a fortune in the state of California.

    On the other hand the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has pumped an astonishing $22 million into the ‘Yes on 8’ campaign.  Mark Jansson, a church member and an executive on the campaign, had conspired with his fellow moral crusaders to write a scathing letter to the ‘No on 8’ campaign demanding that the names of the donors be publicized and that they pay equal amounts to each campaign.

   The letters read; “Make a donation of a like amount to ProtectMarriage.com which will help us correct this error. Were you to elect not to donate comparably, it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition to traditional marriage. The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to ProtectMarriage.com but have given to Equality California will be published.”

     In addition to the bogus extortion attempt, the ‘Yes on 8’ campaign delved into using hypocritical tactics in efforts to keep the names of its donors from being revealed to the public in fear of retribution. However, due to Campaign Donor Disclosure Laws each of the contributors, along with the sum of their monetary donations, was revealed to the public.

    The reasoning and logic behind the ‘Yes on 8’ campaign is both flawed and groundless. Supporters of Proposition 8 claim that children are being taught in school about the concept of homosexuality. Although the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O’Connell, has repeatedly stated that, "Proposition 8 has nothing to do with schools or kids, our schools are not required to teach anything about marriage." In a ‘Yes on 8’ advertisement a mother and father claimed that their child’s teacher read a children’s book about two princes being wed.  Proponents of Proposition 8 claim that teaching children about homosexuality is morally reprehensible and needs to be stopped. The fact is that Proposition 8 does not have anything to do with children or schools it pertains to a minority of American citizens seeking the same rights afforded to all other Americans. When the California marriage ban is eventually overturned the ‘Yes on 8’ supporters will be forced to realize that their argument is unfounded and irrelevant, until then the battle for civil rights will continue to be fought in California.