I usually roll my eyes when people say there is no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats, and let it go at that. But lately, I have been getting a little more annoyed, let's call it mentally ballistic. You know why? Because of something that recently happened in California, my home state.
Our state legislature, for the first time ever in the United States, passed - without a mandate from the courts - a bill legalizing marriage equality for all Californians. AB849 gave same-sex couples the right to a civil marriage, just like the law already does for opposite-sex couples. In doing that, the California State Assembly and the California State Senate spoke out in favor of equality, in favor of our families, in favor of love, and in favor of marriage. That was a hard won victory for not just those of us who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, or any of these other denominations, but it was a victory for all Californians. It was a victory that recognized our relationships are no less valuable, no less loving, and no less deserving of recognition than those of our straight counterparts. I watched the vote on the Assembly floor, and the Senate floor. It was breathtaking, and we made history.
But then, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to draw his pen, put it on paper, and veto this historic legislation. By doing so, he shattered the hopes and dreams of millions of Californians, millions of families who have a gay son, daughter, mother, father, cousin, or other family members. With the stroke of one pen, Schwarzenegger said that gay Californians do not deserve the same recognition of their relationship as does his own marriage.
The emotions have been raw and mixed. Jubilious when the bill passed - in each house of the legislature with the minimum of votes required - and sad when Mr. Schwarzenegger announced his veto. Proud that California became the first state in the union to do this by legislative action, ashamed that our own governor does not think much of our families. Encouraged by the courage of our legislature, hurt by the bigotry of our governor. Hope and joy of a new day in history, and dispair that the Golden State lost a golden opportunity. The history we made will never be erased no matter what Mr. Schwarzenegger did, but the wound that he left will take a long time to heal.
So, what does these raw emotions, matters of heart have to do with political parties, you ask? A lot. It truly is your heart that makes you an American, and indeed, a human being. And it is also the heart of a party that history must judge. Consider this. In the California State Assembly, the bill garnered 41 votes in favor, and 35 against (80 seats total). All 41 voting in favor were Democrats, and all 32 Republicans voted against it. In the State Senate, it passed by a 21-15 margin (total of 40 seats). Again, all 21 Senators voting in favor were Democrats, and all of the Senate's 15 Republicans voted "no." Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who vetoed the bill? Yes, a Republican. Phil Angelides, the Democratic candidate for governor who is also thestate Treasurer, urged Schwarzenegger to make history by signing the bill into law.
So let's make this a little clearer. The bill that made history by affording equal justice under the law and the bill that afforded equal human dignity to all families passed with entirely Democratic votes, and had a Democratic governor been in office, that bill would be the law of the State of California today.
So the difference between the two political parties today is that of heart. Equal justice under the law, and recognition of love and commitment is the heart of the Democratic party. Bigotry, hatred and discrimination are at the heart of today's Republican party. That's the difference.