A gay dad-of-two thanks the Hewlett Packard boss for going from gay marriage opponent and political beneficiary to equality supporter
Last week was extraordinary. The issue of same-sex marriage was discussed more intelligently than ever before. In depth thought and information, including an outstanding synopsis by the American Sociological Association, appeared as briefs filed with the US Supreme Court.
One of these was from 278 employers and organizations arguing from a pro-business perspective. These industry leaders stated that for them to ‘attract the best employees and colleagues’ they must ‘offer robust workplace benefits and a workplace ethos of transparent fairness’. They observed ‘benefits packages – especially health-care and retirement benefits – are a direct contributor to employee loyalty’.
One of the major IT industry corporations was missing from the list – Hewlett Packard. Their CEO, Meg Whitman did sign in on to another amicus brief, however. That brief represented 131 Republicans, and their arguments in support of marriage equality.
‘This case accordingly presents one of the rare instances in which judicial intervention is necessary to prevent overreaching by the electorate. When fundamental liberties are at stake, personal “choices and assessments … are not for the Government to make,” … and courts must step in to prevent any encroachment upon individual rights,’ they state.
Meg Whitman’s participation surprised me. Not only was she a Republican candidate for governor here in California, but she was the banner carrier during the election for fighting to have proposition 8 upheld. Her campaign leveraged the amendment by supporting it and hoping its proponents would support Ms Whitman for governor. She praised proposition 8 at the time as a ‘matter of personal conscience and my faith’.
Her change of position was based on ‘review and reflection’ rather than on religious faith. How those correlate was not explained. In her LinkedIn blog, she states: ‘During my business career, I have lived by a philosophy I refer to as “the power of many”. I truly believe that what we can do together, none of us can do alone… We are simply better when we are bonded together.
‘Marriage is the fundamental institution that unites a society. It is the single greatest contributor to the well-being of adults and children because it promotes eternal principles like commitment, fidelity and stability. It makes no difference whether the marriage is between a man and woman or a woman and woman. Marriage makes society better…
‘Like several others who have either sought or held public office, including President Obama, I have changed my mind on this issue. Same-sex couples and their children should have equal access to the benefits of marriage.’
As a gay dad, I have mixed feelings about this change of opinion. The feelings are analogous to a bittersweet, belated Valentine: tardy, maybe questionable in intent, but ultimately providing a warm affectionate outcome.
So, I decided to send her a belated, bittersweet Valentine in return:
Dear Ms Whitman,
Please be my Valentine celebrity. I know that may be a strange request since over two years ago, your agenda was very un-Valentine-like as you ran to be my governor. You were not the “Yes on 8” campaign itself or the defender of it in court, but you were the 2010 politician with the most to gain in terms of personal campaign leverage. From my perspective, you became inextricably linked as potentially its final defender.
Therefore, as I express praise for you today, I need to let you know the effects of the Yes on 8 campaign and its victory you promised to defend. It was a threat. The months leading up to the 2008 election were horrific for me and my family. I put out signs by our drive in our rural neighborhood so that my neighbors would know that their vote actually affected a family nearby. The reaction was an anonymous vandal who daily secretly stomped down the signs or threw them in the bushes. Daily, I restored them. Signs also appeared outside my sons’ kindergarten with the words ‘Protect Marriage’, and a surreal Stepford Wives eeriness. They were clear that our family was not welcome.
The campaign you defended appeared dishonest. The Yes on 8 image depicted a 1950s style ideal with a man, woman, girl and boy in silhouetted garb of slacks and dresses. I thought of all my kids’ female teachers, the girls in their class and all of my Mom friends, and could not think of the last time I saw one of them in a dress. Yet here was an image for my boys of an ad promoting the ‘perfect family’ that had to not only have a wife/mom, but a sister/girl. Ours has neither.
The campaign you defended intruded on our daily lives. ‘Yes on 8’ protest groups were out and visible and had the demeaning effect of Westboro Funeral picketers on many of my friends. One young man who was struggling with his sobriety recovery called me daily to vent the anger he had to deal with as he passed them on his way to work.
I found myself under an increasing sense of paranoia. I had to worry where my consumer money was going. It became evident there were businesses out there that had no problem taking my money and then donating it out against me to undermine my life. Co-workers would come by my desk, which was decked out with my sons’ nursery school and kindergarten projects. I had to wonder, who smiled and laughed with me and then were planning on voting against my family’s well being, or worse had invested significant savings to fight against my life.
After the election, I got stronger. Many of us did. We have stepped up, we have spoken out. We went to court, and you stepped up and originally vowed to fight us there. I am very glad that somewhere, somehow, some of us reached you, and now you see things differently.
You compared your evolvement to that of President Obama’s. That is not really fair. While he did verbalize a shift in thinking, his policies were supportive of LGBTQ families. Yours were not.
During the original prop 8 campaign, my gay family felt under siege leading to a depressing defeat. On the day I woke up to find that my country had evolved to change history and elect its first African American president, who had voiced his opposition to Prop 8, I also found that my fellow Californians had voted away one of my basic rights and derailed on my pursuit of happiness.
Two years later, you also had a bad post-election morning in 2010. You woke to find your bid to be chief executive of our state had failed, and the tawdry proposition you had exploited was going to have to find others to defend it in court.
We could have met for a commiserating we-will-someday-be-friends coffee.
So, it is time to let bygones be bygones. It is time for me to let go of the anger from four years ago and accept the olive branch of support you are extending. I realize this is a little late, but lateness of our affection seems to define the relationship between you and the LGBTQ community. I am just glad we can show up for each other ultimately.
Your statements and visibility in front of the Supreme Court decision are huge, and I cannot over state my appreciation for your having made them at this time in history. Your statements could hold significant sway, and I want to express the deep respect I feel towards your position and actions.
I want to end this Valentine with its intended spirit for you with two specific words: ‘Thank you.’
It would be nice if I could offer them unconditionally, and I intend to, but I can’t help but wish that your statement of support had also included two specific words of its own: ‘I’m sorry.’
With new fondness,