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Editorial: Symbolic actions matter in quest for civil rights

Original post made on Apr 5, 2013

In the 1960s, political and community leaders in Palo Alto were among those who stepped up to publicly advocate for federal and state fair-housing laws against red-lining and other forms of racial discrimination in housing.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, April 5, 2013, 8:53 AM

Comments (37)

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2013 at 9:06 am

It is also true to say that in the 60s there were a large number of people who thought that their civil rights of choosing against marriage and opting for cohabitation without the need of a piece of paper were important and needed to be heard and recognized.

Funny how times have gone around in a complete circle. That piece of paper seems to be more important to liberals than they once thought.


Posted by Person of color, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2013 at 9:56 am

As a person of color, I was delighted to see that this editorial was about civil rights, especially in light of the recent violation by the elected representatives of the school board and the superintendent that they hired, Kevin Skelly. Then I saw that this was really about gay rights. I support the right for all to be married, and I even voted that way, but I would like to see Palo Altans, the Weekly, and readers use their considerable resources to address the inequalities that exist for so many disadvantaged people of color in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. To not do so, and act as if people of color are invisible, is simply immoral at this point.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 5, 2013 at 11:21 am

Person of color - it serves their interests to leave things as they are re people of color.


Posted by Practical, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Everyone, regardless of sexual persuasion, creed or color, has a right to drive on streets that do not ruin our tire, and to walk on sidewalks that are in good repair. We all need plenty of schools, and no overcrowding, such as ABAG wants. Council needs to focus on that.


Posted by Sylvia, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Person of color: I respect your opinion, but don't think that our City government, by acknowledging one disadvantaged group by flying the rainbow flag, has snubbed another disadvantaged group.


Posted by Lynn, a resident of University South
on Apr 5, 2013 at 1:56 pm

I thought your editorial would also mention a memorable PAlo Alto Council meeting when Larry Klein and Elllen Fletcher led the Council to vote for peace. Many objected, saying that it was not the place of a city to pass such a motion - but the motion passed and a packed Council chamber was moved to tears of joy.


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2013 at 4:53 pm

It is still not the responsibility of city politicians -- who hardly understand the other side of the gay marriage debate (only popular hysteria and propaganda) -- to take a side on a moral or political issue and claim it on behalf of the ENTIRE city.


Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 5, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Sorry, Nayeli,the council can do it on behalf of the whole city and it is one of the few smart things they have done. The other side of the gay marriage debate ? What is that? The fact that Christians are intolerant to gays? That gays can be fired from their jobs and thrown out of their rented homes in certain parts of the country? That gays are not considered " good" or " moral " by many n the religious right?
It is time to end this climate of intolerance towards gays that is pushed by those that claim that their " religious freedoms" are being violated.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 5, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Nayeli is still in [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] denial about what a city council can & can't do. Apparently, they can do what they did. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2013 at 7:29 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like I said before, this is about the REDEFINITION OF A NAME.

Christians and others would have no problem with the state extending all of the rights and protections via civil contracts to any consenting adults. However, the state should not force a large number (around 50%) of Americans to redefine a gender-specific union for which they are morally, religiously or culturally opposed.

Like it or not, Christianity has some very specific teachings about homosexuality (and other issues of morality). And, like it or not, Christians are still the predominant religious faith for a majority of Americans. By redefining the name which is simultaneously a religious sacrament, the state would effectively force a form of morality as defined by a certain group upon everyone else.

But that is neither here nor there when it comes to politicians from the City of Palo Alto proclaiming a stand on an issue despite a significant minority in this town disagreeing. If the shoe was on the other foot, I imagine that you would criticize the act as "tyranny of the majority."

Again: No one is being "intolerant of gays" any more than you are being "intolerant of Christians." Gays should have the right to enter into a civil contract like everyone else. However, a significant portion of the population is opposed to calling that civil contract a "marriage" when "marriage" is gender specific.


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2013 at 7:35 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I don't hate homosexuals. I think that they should be legally protected via the same Constitutional and contractual rights and protections as the rest of us. However, "marriage" is gender specific form of a civil contract. No one is arguing that homosexuals shouldn't have civil contract that is gender specific. No one is arguing that polygamists shouldn't have a civil contract that is specific in regard to number.

The problem, again, is in forcing a group that is morally, religiously or culturally opposed to redefining the name of an existing contract and sacrament. I have no problem with every right...every protection...every opportunity being extended to homosexual couples. However, millions of Americans cannot call that particular civil contract a "marriage."


Posted by Not a issue, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 5, 2013 at 7:49 pm

If I have to explain to you the general intolerance that a large number of Christians, especially the religious right, have demonstrated towards gays, then you must be clueless to the actions and rhetoric of these Christians.
The fact that "Christians" are the predominant religion in this country is irrelevant-- the country has no official religion. It is laughable that you claim that a morality defined by a certain group is forced on others. Whatbdomyounthink Christian opposition to gay marriage is? Christians forcing their beliefs on everyone.
What do you think the anti- abortion movement is?Christians forcing their beliefs on everyone. What do you think the way school textbooks are forced to comply with a certain point of view? Christians forcing their beliefs on everyone.
What do you think the attempts by the religiousnrightbto censor music, tv, movies , art etc is? Christians forcing their beliefs on everyone..
Believe me Nayeli, a gay married couple will have no effect on your life whatsoever. And save the " Christianity" and " morality" arguments for someone who actually believes in the whole JC story


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2013 at 8:14 pm

I think it is about time to ask What Would Jesus Do (or say)?

Jesus would love the sinner and not condemn. Jesus would say "Render to Caesar that which is Caesars" in other words follow the law of the land.

Jesus called the Scribes and Pharisees a brood of vipers and those in the temple making money he cleared away with anger and contempt.

Jesus forgave the prostitute and told the condemned criminal crucified beside him who asked for forgiveness that "today you will be with me in paradise".

In other words, Jesus would love the sinner and hate the sin.

If we believe the Genesis story of creation (a choice for each one of us) then we understand that God created man. He said that man had dominion over all the beasts of the Earth and since there was none that was suitable to provide companionship for Man, He then created a helpmeet suitable for Man and called her Woman. He also said that it was right for Man and Woman to leave their parents and cling to each other and desire each other. He also gave them the ability to populate the Earth through this desire. He also called them Husband and Wife.

What gay people do is their own business. Whatever the law describes their union is a legal definition. The dictionary definition of any word is not necessarily the same as the legal definition and if the legal definition changes in some places the dictionary definition may or may not change, but the historical definition will still remain.

Why am I writing all this? Because the whole debate is getting a little tiring. The designer of the rainbow flag is making money. A lot of sensible thinking people are in anguish over something which in the big picture is a non event.

If it barks and wags its tail it is a dog. It is not a cat. You can call it a cat. The law can call it a cat. You can say it is no longer pc to call it a dog. But if it barks and wags its tail we all know it is not a cat.

Just allow my daughter to get married and be called the bride on her license and when my son gets married let him be the groom. Don't make them become person A and person B. That would be belittling and petty.




Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 5, 2013 at 10:48 pm

I'm glad that your city council members are not bigoted toward gays, as some of the commenters on this thread are. Given the racism I've seen in PA, i find their cincetn about gay marriage rights encouraging. Their decision, thankfully, supports this civil rights issue of our time. Their decision doesn't have to do with religion but with their own moral compass. Jesus may not be relevant to them, or maybe so - it's not a religious issue. But civil rights matter to them, even if they also wish to remain PC & popular.


Posted by Age of Enlightenment, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2013 at 9:07 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 6, 2013 at 12:34 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Paco, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Apr 6, 2013 at 3:24 pm

What a shame that the City of Palo City Council in the 1960's failed to recognize those soldiers fighting in SouthEast Asia and the veterans returning home. Too bad they continue their intolerance and fail to recognize those POW's considered Missing in Action by not flying the POW/MIA flag in support of families who have missing family members. Too bad they have chosen a flag that is not recognized by any federal/state law as a symbol of racial, humanity, or civil rights. Choosing a flag designed by a street vendor to line the pockets of those selling these items on street corners to date is not recognized by federal or state law as an official act of flag recognition. What a shame that the City of Palo Alto failed to recognize the anniversary of Martin Luther Kings death yesterday and continues to not recognize the 3rd Monday of January as a National Day of Recognition in honor of Martin Luther King, yet, choose to fly a flag with no recognition in King Plaza. What a shame.


Posted by SusanG, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 6, 2013 at 5:14 pm

The city council should not have spoken for the entire city.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 7, 2013 at 10:56 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Apr 7, 2013 at 9:35 pm

There was a time I would have engaged with the people opposed to marriage equality. Now, I just feel sorry for them. I actually do. History is marching past them rather quickly and with little concern. When will they wake up and discover they were all worked up over something that will not affect them at all?


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 7, 2013 at 11:03 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Maury, a resident of Professorville
on Apr 8, 2013 at 10:04 am

I have no stand in this debate. I am not a homosexual or a Christian and the homosexuals that I know are more interested in the legal rights associated with marriage rather than the name of the legal contract. I think that both sides make good points. Gays can have the contract without forcing others to call it a marriage. I think that it would be a good compromise. It allows religious to not violate their doctrinal codes or consciences yet still provide legal rights to gay couples. It would also restrict such legal contracts to a couple and prevent polygamy and invest relationships being provided a contract with the same name. Just my 2 cents.


Posted by amare, a resident of Stanford
on Apr 8, 2013 at 10:29 am

"It allows religious to not violate their doctrinal codes or consciences"


Maury--no religious person will be made to violate their doctrinal codes. No church will be forced to perform a gay marriage. The fact that a gay couple is married will not effect anyone--religious or not religious.
That argument about "violation of religious rights" is bogus. If people want to use their religion as an excuse for [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] intolerance, then they are not familiar with the true meaning of their religion.


Posted by Maury, a resident of Professorville
on Apr 8, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Amare, I don't think that you or I are in a position to proclaim the true meaning of someone's religion. I think that Naeyeli has done a good job in formulating her position on the matter and showing that a government adoption of a new definition for marriage which takes gender out of that definition can force others to accept that new definition. If gays were given the same rights under a different name as suggested, it wouldn't cause others to violate their conscience by accepting the new definition of the term. I do think that the government has a poor track record regarding conscientious objectors if you look at Catholic institutions and things like abortion and contraceptives. But I also think that local city officials should not speak for the town either. There are enough people in Palo Alto who support a historic definition of marriage so that the city should not call the position of the local politicians add the only one that counts. Again, my 2 cents.


Posted by amare, a resident of Stanford
on Apr 8, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Maury-- [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

"can force others to accept that new definition"
No one is being forced to accept anything. How will the fact that a gay couple is married really affect you and Nayeli??? Years ago interracial marriage was banned--the laws were changed and people accepted the fact that interracial couples could marry. The world survived and everyone moved on.

" it wouldn't cause others to violate their conscience by accepting the new definition of the term."
Again, the same question as above. You will not be forced to interact with gay married couples. In fact, christianity has for decades been trying to force things on people (anti-abortion, anti-gay, pro-censorship etc). I guess it is okay when they are the majority?? (even though we do not have a state religion).

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

It is also time that this country stopped marching to the drum of the religious right--their track record for understanding and tolerance is not that great. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2013 at 1:16 pm

I will wait and see if it is true that no church will be forced to marry a gay couple.

However, many businesses have been forced to close rather than violate their beliefs about same sex marriage, wedding providers such as photographers, cake manufacturers, non-church venues, etc. Forcing people to violate their beliefs and being forced to cater to same sex couples or go out of business does affect people.

Dictionary definition of marriage is not a legal issue. If it barks and wags its tail, you may call it a cat to be pc, but it will still be a dog.


Posted by amare, a resident of Stanford
on Apr 8, 2013 at 1:28 pm

"However, many businesses have been forced to close rather than violate their beliefs about same sex marriage, wedding providers such as photographers, cake manufacturers, non-church venues, etc. Forcing people to violate their beliefs and being forced to cater to same sex couples or go out of business does affect people."
The above is another one of those claims that anti-gay marriage activists like to spread about. Not based on any facts whatsoever. A private business is free to choose or refuse it's clients as they desire. Perhaps resident can direct us to evidence of busineesses going out business en masse due to same sex marriages!!!
In fact a couple of months ago there was a story on CNN how a bakery refused to make a wedding cake for a same sex couple--there business went up.
Yes, and here is the "Forcing people to violate their beliefs" argument--years ago it was used to deny african-americans the same rights as white people and it was used against interracial couples as well.

Let's ignore these empty arguments against gay marriage.

And what is with the editing on this forum?? Is it run by born-agains???


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2013 at 3:04 pm

10 second google found this story of a tour company going out of the wedding business. Web Link

I show one, there are more listed too. Do your own googling to see how businesses will be unable to discriminate against a same sex wedding. It is not true that a business can decide whether or not to do business with a particular client. If they are in business to do weddings, then they will have to do all weddings unless they are a church or religious order.


Posted by Notan issue, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 8, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Nice try resident. The link you provide show a company NOT going out o fbusiness-- they are just not doing weddings anymore. The story also mentions that many wedding vendors are seeking gay couples for their services. So how many businesses will actually see more business due to gay weddings?
And a business can decide not to do business with a client. Amare gave an exa,ple above. And what about those signs you see in many stores--- we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone? Are those false?

The problem with the " gay marriage infringes on my religious rights arguments" is that when it is convenient the religious try to force their beliefs on others. Sme examples:
- we need to outlaw abortion it is against MY religious beliefs
- we need to outlaw contraceptives it is against MY religious beliefs
-we need to censor tv, movies, music, the are things that are against MY religious beliefs
-- we cannot ban organized prayer in public schools it is against MY religious beliefs

And the list goes on and on.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2013 at 3:39 pm

I didn't say it was going out of business. I said it was going out of the wedding business.

How many cake makers, photographers, etc. are going to do the same thing without being sued?

Yes, people can say that have the right to refuse admission, etc. etc. but generally speaking it is because they have rules. They may insist on wearing shoes or shirts, or insisting on good behavior, no foul language, no drunks, etc. But, I can't see a business getting away with not being sued if they refused the right of entry to a gay person on that issu e. I read somewhere (but can't find it now) about a bed and breakfast inn that gave a gay couple twin rooms instead of a double bed and were sued!

It is against the law to discriminate. My civil rights to do business only go as far as the customer's civil rights to sue me if I do something they do not like.

So where do you think the law should draw the line. Can a man decide to marry his father? Can a woman marry her sister? No children will come from the union so what difference will it make? Of course there are reasons why there is no civil right to marry whoever we like.

So, answer me this. Will it be OK for a man to marry his father? Will it be ok for a woman to marry her mother? Will it be ok for two brothers to marry, or for two brothers to marry? Will sense prevail?


Posted by not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 8, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Here we go with more irrelevant arguments- can a man marry his father/goat/table. I guess after the procreation/religious freedom/businesses forced to close arguments fail, we move on to plan F


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2013 at 5:06 pm

This is why I say sensible people have sensible thoughts.

Not an issue is not making a sensible argument.

Nobody is sensibly talking about marrying a goat or marrying a table.

But siblings marrying? Is that acceptable? Adult parent and child marrying? Is that acceptable?

I am not talking about religious or Christian arguments because I accept that not all people want to regard religous arguments as valid. I am perfectly OK with that. I am not mentioning any religious reasoning. I am however talking about a sensible argument.

Do you think that incestuous marriage is acceptable? If so, do you think incestuous marriage is acceptable when the two parties are of the same sex or the opposite sex? Does it matter if the two parties are not (for reasons of gender or of age) able to bear children?

If you decide that incestuous marriage is not acceptable regardless of gender, then you are drawing a line and making boundaries. If you decide that incestous marriage is acceptable is it then acceptable to assume that both parties, although adults, are entering this marriage with free will and there is no coercion? Would it be sensible for authorities to check that there is no coercion involved?

Do you agree that there is a good reason for drawing the line and saying that marriage between two adults must have boundaries?

I don't think this is an irrelevant argument. It is a sensible question and deserves a sensible answer. No name calling necessary. If you have to answer with snide comments then it shows you are not able to have sensible discussion.


Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 8, 2013 at 6:30 pm

The issue of incestuous marriage is already dealt with by law-- so no relevance to gay marriage. If resident is so concerned about incestuous marriage, why raise the issue now? Why not years ago? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2013 at 6:47 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2013 at 6:51 pm

@ Not an issue:

Personally, I never said that the gay marriage debate was about procreation. I haven't known many people who used that attempt at logic and I think that it is a poor argument.

I made it clear where I stand on the issue and I know many people who share the same views that I have.

It isn't about "rights" -- because many of those who oppose same gender "marriage" have no problem with gay couples being given all of the same rights and benefits.

It isn't about "segregation" -- because gender can be a contract designation (or even a bathroom, athletic teams, etc... designation) rather than a "segregation."

For me, it is about the attempt to redefine a gender-specific civil contract and force others to adhere to and acknowledge that contract. Since "marriage" is both the name of a gender-specific civil contract and the name of a religious sacrament, there are millions of people in this nation that will not accept a redefinition. They will not refer to a homosexual civil contract as a "marriage" -- even if they will not oppose or fight the rights and privileges afforded by such contracts.

In other words, it is about the NAME of the contract that is in dispute. Forcing a person to go against their scruples, religious views or conscience by requiring recognition and embrace of a new definition for that contract's (and sacrament's) name would violate the conscience.

Churches may be exempted from performing "gay marriage" ceremonies, but all people would be legally forced to recognize such unions as "marriages." There are legal consequences for that too.

However, the bigger issue in this case is about whether or not city leaders should speak on behalf of the entire city through this flag. That flag does not speak for me and thousands of other residents of this city. As I said, could you imagine if you lived in a city where its leaders raised a flag that was in opposition to your views? What if they raised a pro-war flag (during the beginning of the Iraq war)? What if they raised a Prop 8 flag when the majority of voters in the state supported it and a majority in that town did too?

It isn't the place for city leaders to speak for the entire city by using their own social and political views to do so.


Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 8, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Nayeli- to be much briefer than you -- it is about equal rights. Civil rights are not determined by a majority vote. The city did well speaking for the city on this.
The rest of your long argument -- redefinition, contracts, forcing others, Religious views, scruples etc. are irrelevant and immaterial adjust a smoke screen


Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 8, 2013 at 7:00 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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