What Does “Love is Love” Mean?
People around the world likely remember November 4, 2008 as the remarkable, historic day that the United States of America elected its first Black president, Barack Obama. For California residents, this major progressive step forward was accompanied by a devastating step back with the passage of Proposition 8. Many people, especially here in California, need no more information beyond the words “Prop 8” to know exactly what I am talking about, but for anyone unfamiliar, Prop 8 eliminated the right to marry for same-sex couples.
If you’re reading this, you probably know that our company is based in California, and while we all remember the sadness and disappointment we felt when Prop 8 passed, we also recall the clear and simple message that came from Prop 8 opponents: Love is Love. This powerful mantra has long outlived Prop 8, which was overturned in 2010. While the phrase is most often associated with marriage equality, for many within the LGBTQ+ community its meaning extends beyond the right to marry. “Love is Love” is associated with the inalienable right to form a loving family. And it means being accepted for who you are and who you love. For this Valentine’s Day, Mightly wants to celebrate some of the many meanings behind “Love is Love” by remembering some of California’s historic pro-LGBTQ+ accomplishments.
“Love is Love” Means Recognizing Partnerships
The first city in California to recognize same-sex domestice partnership was Berkeley (right next to our Oakland headquarters). In the late 1970s, Gay rights activist and Berkeley city employee Tom Brougham was frustrated to learn that only married couples were eligible to the city’s family employee benefits. This meant that his partner Barry Warren would not receive Brougham’s benefits, as there was no way for the two to legally wed at the time. There was no existing way of legally recognizing the relationships of same-sex couples, so in 1979 Brougham wrote a letter to the city requesting for his partner to be enrolled in the city’s health benefits. Additionally, it is believed that Brougham’s letter coined the phrase “domestic partner.” Brougham’s motion was initially met with legislative resistance, but wide community support. By 1983 Berkeley formed a domestic partnership task force which drafted a policy that would allow all live-in partners to receive family health benefits. The policy passed in December of 1984, and Tom Brougham and Barry Warren were the first couple to register under the new domestic partner policy. Many California cities would create similar policies modeled after Berkeley’s and by 1999 a statewide policy was passed to ensure same-sex couples would be legally recognized as domestic partners.
“Love is Love” Means Workplace Protections
During Governor Pete Wilson’s 1990 electoral campaign he promised to enact proposed Assembly Bill 101, which would have outlawed employer discrimination based on sexual orientation. Upon taking office in 1991, he ignored his campaign promise and vetoed the anti-discrimination bill.
Governor Wilson’s veto sparked outrage. A major protest erupted in San Francisco, drawing tens of thousands of residents. Other California cities soon followed with similar demonstrations of their outrage. One year after the demonstrations began, Wilson finally signed an anti-discrimination bill into law - though the new bill notably lessened the consequences for violators of the law.
For the Queer community, Wilson’s action was far too little, and way too late. Since 1992, the anti-discrimination law has expanded to include gender identity as a protected class. Additional laws have been enacted to prevent discrimination from housing opportunities, business services, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Love is Love” Means Equal Access
2014 was a big year for LGBTQ+ rights in California as several significant laws were enacted including the School Success and Opportunity Act as well as Assembly Bill 496, which focused on the needs of the LGBTQ+ community in healthcare settings.
All students are entitled to be treated with respect while they exercise their right to receive an education. LGBTQ+ students are often singled out, especially when they advocate for their own needs. The passage of the School Success and Opportunity Act was one approach to combat the unfair treatment many LGBTQ+ students faced in academic settings. The law ensures that students are allowed to express their gender identity and that they have safe access to the school facilities and activities that align with their identity.
Assembly Bill 496 was designed to address the unequal and inadequate care many people from the LGBTQ+ community have received from the healthcare system. The law calls for healthcare providers to undergo training that will help them deliver well informed care that addresses the specific needs of the LGBTQ+ community. Medical and mental health practitioners such as doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and marriage counselors are included.
“Love is Love” Means More than Marriage Equality
It has been over 10 years since Proposition 8 was overturned, and the state of California has since taken many steps forward towards addressing the needs of the LGBTQ+ community. The many legislative victories have been the result of years of community advocacy and activism. Lawmakers write bills, and Governors sign them into law, but if you trace back the origins of any given legal action, you are likely to find a movement launched by the LGBTQ+ community. California’s numerous victories deserve a mighty round of applause, but that does not mean that the work is done.
This Valentine’s Day you can exemplify “Love is Love” by teaching your kids that a loving relationship is not defined by gender identity or sexual orientation. Here are a few resources that can help guide these conversations.
I Am Jazz the book and the series