David Bohnett Acceptance Speech for the ACLU Citizen Advocate Award
June 25, 2002, ACLU Law Luncheon, Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles, CA
© David Bohnett, June, 2002. Not to be reproduced without permissionThe Bohnett Foundation was founded just over three years ago, in May of 1999, and in early 2000 we hired Michael Fleming as the organization's first Program Officer. My only concern was that Michael had a job at the time...as the Media Director at the ACLU. When I approached Ramona to make sure that she would be OK with this, she gently (but firmly) placed her hand on my arm and said, "I'm sure that we can find some way for you to make it up to me." Well, I hope that I have. But I honestly think, especially in light of all of the important work that Martha has done as the Bohnett Attorney... that we are the ones who should be thanking Ramona, Martha and the entire ACLU staff.
Hardly a week goes by that I don't get an email sharing Martha's docket. From filing a First Amendment case challenging the removal of books on famous gay and lesbian people from an Anaheim public school library, to defending the right of youth service providers to protest the absurd choice of "Dr. Laura" as the keynote speaker at a child welfare conference...Martha is there.
Martha has worked tirelessly on the highly controversial case challenging California's "Second-Parent Adoption" Law... and spends much of her time...not in the courtroom but in the classroom... working on public education and advocacy projects that seek to ensure safety and fairness for LGBT students in public schools.
I could not be more proud to have my name associated with her trailblazing work.
But there is so much more to be done...
- Gays and lesbians continue to face discrimination at the altar and in the courts... and our inability to marry, not just enter into Domestic Partnerships or Civil Unions...continues to make all of us 'less than equal' in the eyes of the law. It is time to put an end to this state-sanctioned discrimination and demand, of both our elected leaders and the courts, that our relationships be treated with the same respect and equality that are accorded of our straight brothers and sisters.
- We continue to see children taken from their homes and their families simply because their parents are gay. In Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi, just to name a few states, courts continue to punish gay and lesbian families... issuing myths and biased assertions from the bench about our ability to parent. We cannot and must not allow those most vulnerable, our children, to be pawns of the right wing's political agenda.
- We have an administration in Washington that has placed its seal of approval on government funding for faith-based institutions... even when those groups routinely and legally... deny employment to gays and lesbians.
The list of challenges doesn't end there...nor can our commitment to fight this kind of hatred and bigotry.
In late 1994, I had an idea for an Internet company that would become a sort of an electronic village - a place where people who shared a common interest and philosophy could gather together to meet and exchange ideas and information. It was the voices, contributions and passions of those cyber-citizens that made each community a strong and vibrant place to visit. I believed in the concept of communities on the Internet in the same way that, as an activist, I had worked to better my community here at home. For those reasons, and so many more, I am honored to be called an ACLU Citizen Advocate.
For those of us who support the ACLU and other programs and organizations that, by some, are seen as controversial, I am reminded of a favorite quote of Eleanor Roosevelt.
Frequently, she responded to queries about her perseverance by saying, "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, like me, must undergo the fatigues of supporting it."
I suspect, though, that Mrs. Roosevelt really felt much the same way that Ramona and I and all of you do...that supporting the ACLU if far from tiring...indeed, it is invigorating. And with this Award, you have energized me to continue to do whatever I can to honor the civil liberties and civil rights that this great organization works to preserve for us all.
Thank you very much.