David Bohnett Speeches

Acceptance Remarks at Lamda Legal's West Coast Liberty Awards

Thank you, Honey, and thank you Lambda. It's an honor to receive recognition from an organization that has racked up one of the highest success rates of any civil rights legal group.

Video: Slideshow depicting scenes from David's public and personal life.

Lambda's work has dramatically improved our society — the Lawrence decision, Lambda's groundbreaking U.S. Supreme Court victory striking down all 13 remaining sodomy laws in the country, opened up an expansive new era of legal respect for LGBT people.

Lambda's marriage equality work — both on its own and in concert with our legal allies from coast-to-coast … has proven to be invaluable in the face of tremendous legal and political odds.

We need only look at the last few months:

  • In Massachusetts … where Lambda and others worked to ensure that marriage equality would not be repealed through an ill-conceived and hateful constitutional ballot measure.
  • In New Jersey where, with little rancor or acrimony, the legislature passed and Governor Corzine signed a civil unions bill — and many of us, including me believe that full marriage equality in the Garden State cannot be far behind.
  • And of course, here in California … where we have cobbled together an enviable but admittedly incomplete package of domestic partner benefits.

But full marriage equality for Californians remains out of reach, thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's vetoes of marriage equality legislation reveal the unmistakable and inherent character flaws of a hypocritical, homophobic man who chooses a tried and true Republican method of governing by means of fear, oppression and discrimination. The inevitable enactment of marriage equality in California will only serve to highlight in retrospect Governor Schwarzenegger's pathetic leadership.

We can't, however, take the inevitable for granted. All of us in this room have an individual responsibility to connect with, identify, nurture and mentor the next generation of lesbian and gay leaders. For many of us, activism and the quest for social justice is our life's work.

There comes a time, however, when our focus has to shift, to helping expand the participation and to building the infrastructure of our movement. Lambda's future successes depend upon increasing the base of lawyers and activists working for our cause.

We must leverage the experience we have gained through our decades of sweat and effort and find the ways to pass our wisdom on to tomorrow's warriors for equality.

There are ways to do this, through a commitment of time and energy to the organizations that are focused on leadership development and management training for the rising stars within our ranks.

Funders such as the Gill Foundation, the Bohnett Foundation and the Arcus Foundation have made a significant financial commitment to strengthening LGBT leadership training. The recipients of these grants include the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, People for the American Way, HRC and other groups who have leadership and management training programs up and running.

Our financial support, though, is not enough. We must make it a life priority to promote involvement in activism through our myriad network of friends and acquaintances.

There are ways to do this, too. We're here tonight because we've learned the reward and satisfaction that comes from personal involvement. We all know someone who would benefit from being involved with Lambda. Inviting a friend to attend an event, join an AIDS walk, volunteer for Lambda or The Center, is doing that friend a favor and a great service.

Let's use the positive energy created from Lambda's achievements as well as the swelling anger from our Republican Governor's vetoes as our rallying cry for expanding our numbers and influence. Together, we will achieve our goal for social justice and full equality.

Thank you to the woman and men of Lambda for helping create a better world for lesbians and gay men and a more tolerant society for us all.