Kate Kendell

A Lifetime in Two Weeks

Filed By Kate Kendell | June 02, 2008 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: California, marriage

I write this on the evening of May 29. It has been exactly two weeks since the historic ruling from the California Supreme Court ending the exclusion of lesbians and gay men from the right to marry. The past two weeks have been the most exhilarating and exhausting (in a good way) of my entire life. I am at turns elated, joyful, anxious, hopeful, nervous, determined and thrilled. One moment it feels like the past 14 days have flown by and the next it feels as if this landmark decision was announced months ago.

I am so grateful to the City and County of San Francisco, our co-counsel Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, Heller Ehrman LLP, and the Law Office of David C. Codell.

So, to cut to the chase, I don't know quite how to feel, for good reason--we have never been here before. Yes, we have won or favorably resolved many amazing, life changing cases since our founding in 1977: custody victories for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents; reforms and new policies to protect LGBT kids in public schools, foster care, and in juvenile facilities; a wrongful death victory for Sharon Smith; settlement of our discrimination lawsuit on behalf of Jennifer Harris against Penn State; countless asylum victories for LGBT immigrants seeking safe haven; recognition of parental rights for non-biological parents, and so on. The list is long and storied. Each effort so important to building us to this moment--winning the freedom to marry in California. And make no mistake: every area of our work will be benefited and enriched by this ruling.

The California Supreme Court did not simply rule that we had a right to marry, they ruled that any discrimination in state law based on sexual orientation will be subjected to withering scrutiny by the Courts of this state. If a law discriminates based on sexual orientation there had better be a very good reason for why, or the law will be struck down. No state Supreme Court has ever given us this kind of protection from discrimination. And already the ruling has, in this short time, rippled out and inspired additional acts of inclusion and support. Just yesterday New York Governor David Paterson issued an Executive Order, requiring all state agencies in New York to recognize marriages from other states and countries.

When I think of all this, of what a new day we now live in, I am elated and joyful and thrilled.

I then think to what appears to be coming: a constitutional amendment on the November ballot in California that our opponents see as their last chance to stop this groundbreaking progress. That is when I feel anxious and nervous and most importantly completely resolved and determined to do all we can to beat back this measure and the draconian forces behind it once and for all. I'm sure I will feel that way a lot in the coming months. So much is at stake; so much hangs in the balance.

Then I think about 31 years of NCLR never giving up. I think of what we have achieved against all the odds. I spend my days with a staff who are inspired, committed, and determined; I meet with a Board of Directors who are so proud of what we have accomplished; I talk to clients who say we have changed their lives; and I hear from you--every day. You write notes of support, you write checks to support our work, you call to say you want to help. You say over and over you will be there for us, whatever happens. Then I feel the one emotion that can keep me going for as long as it takes--hope. And when that happens, it is a very good day.

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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 3, 2008 5:39 AM

How do I express how happy I am for you? I'd better write a check. The only thing I ask is always remember that you are defeating those who hate. That is ultimately good for everyone.

NCLR has done so much work in California and across the nation. I'm grateful for the work you do, Kate. We'd be lesser without you.

NCLR has done great work in this field. Thanks for keeping up the fight, Kate!