Thinking About History

After weeks of working tirelessly on CA's No on 8 campaign, LGBT Project Director Matt Coles is waiting for the election results and reflecting on the campaign.

During this excruciating wait for the polls to close and the results to be reported on California’s marriage initiative, I let myself think about history for a few moments.

Intimacy for same-sex couples was a crime in California until 1974. There wasn’t a single law recognizing the relationships of same-sex couples—anywhere in the U.S. — until the Berkeley School District passed one in 1984. San Francisco’s groundbreaking domestic partnership law, passed in 1982, was vetoed by the very same Dianne Feinstein who just a few days ago made an impassioned plea against Proposition 8, the proposal to take marriage away.

We’ve come a long way in what is, in cultural history, a very short time.

And laws may not be the best way to measure that change. A few years ago, I had lunch with George Hecht, a man who supported a lot of LGBT organizations. George was then in his 80’s. He told me about how hard it had been to keep a relationship alive in the 30’s in the 40’s: the absolute need to hide it from employers, co-workers, even from close friends and family. The details were painful to listen to. He looked up wistfully as he told me how he and the man he loved had managed for a time, but that eventually, it had all been too much.

Society in the mid 20th century did everything it possibly could do to make sure that gay people led the sad, isolated lives it said were our lot. Some people, like Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon (and countless others I got to know as a young lawyer in San Francisco in the 70’s), were able to fight it and forge ways of living despite the social pressures. But there were many others who weren’t. I think about those damaged lives, and I grieve.

One of the things that has struck me as I’ve worked in California for most of the last two months on the campaign is the number of straight people who care as passionately about this as I do: the real estate agent who asked me if I had an extra “No On 8” sticker because it mattered so much, the server who asked me if I knew where to volunteer, my college roommate, who, unbeknownst to me, was volunteering in a phone bank.

I wish I knew for sure how this election is going to turn out. But talking to those folks around California over the last few months has made it clear to me that we’re not going back to George Hecht’s youth, or even to mine. In 1978, it was inconceivable that a majority of Californians would support marriage for same-sex couples, then or in 50 years. Today, the nail-biter is whether that happens today or in a few years.

It would be great to win, and it is always great to make the law carry out the promises of the Constitution. But the point really is to make it possible for millions of people to live their lives, and not have to hide their love. We’re winning that for sure.

For additional information on Prop. 8 and tools for advancing LGBT equality in your community, visit

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Betty McKenna

In Utah we have a site called On this site people can exchange opinions in an open forum. But I have entered a web site that would help Mormons understand there own church history regarding formal homosexual church leaders and all 3 times my comments have been vanished. Yet Mormons are among the highest financial investors in not allowing same sex marriages in Californias Prop 8. I do not believe that KSL has an equal representation of all opinions and does not want the Mormon followers to be properly informed. Keeping them in the dark when it comes to their own religion. The site I'm referring to is I have submitted it 3 times and each time my submission has been censored. On this site they have the Chronology of Joseph Smiths homosexual encounters during his lifetime. How can they get away with censoring facts? I'm not homosexual but I do defend the position that people should have the freedom to make INFORMED decisions. On my 3rd attempt I explained to them that if they didn't allow my opinion to post I would report it to the ACLU. I guess they do not respect your organization either because it did not waver their actions.



Caspar Brun

My names is Caspar Brun, I am not gay, I'm a 17 year old high school student, and I have a gay mother. What has struck me as tragic through all of this is that morality has become a diluted concept. Morality is a slogan used by those who do not understand it. I was raised almost solely by my mother. What she taught me is simple. Morality does not stem from facts, religion, and most importantly not hate. But, the only true morality in the world stems from compassion. May morality one day prevail.

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