In the msnbc original series ”Generation to Generation,” we take a side-by-side look at the work of civil rights leaders from the 1960s and their modern-day counterparts. This week, the series features Lt. Governor of California, Gavin Newsom and Politini Media Co-founders, Danielle and Aisha Moodie-Mills.
In 2004, as San Francisco’s Mayor, Newsom defied state laws by directing the city-county clerk to issue marriages licenses to same-sex couples. He continued his fierce support of same-sex marriage by being a vocal opponent of Proposition 8.
The Moodie-Mills are a media power couple who use Politini to “shift culture by exploring the personal side of politics.” You’ll often see them on msnbc speaking to LGBT, women in politics, and race issues.
The LGBT advocates responded to a range of msnbc.com community questions from AIDS to marijuana. Take a look at the conversation below:
[Aisha and Danielle Moodie-MIlls responded to the questions collectively.]
Luke Leifeste: How did you deal with the onslaught of naysayers along the way in your fight for LGBT rights? Did you tune out the “haters” or prefer to take them head on?
The Moodie-Mills: There will always be haters that work tirelessly to block progress and never enough time in your day to take them all on. We focus on moving the ball forward and that takes energy and focus that can’t be wasted on naysayers. Although, we are human, so when we shared our wedding photos on Essence and commenters came after our family, we did step in and try to shut the negativity down.
The good news is that naysayers have been far and few in between in our experience. What we’ve learned is that few can disavow or deny basic love, and so we try to lead from that place of love. We strive each day to live authentically and love openly and to connect with people around our common humanity. This has helped us to demystify stereotypes about LGBT people and connect with people who haven’t been considered natural allies of the LGBT community.
Lt. Governor Newsom: There was a lot of resistance around same-sex marriage when we began issuing licenses in San Francisco in 2004. While good people can disagree, I am someone who cannot support denying a basic human right to two people who love one another. When we started issuing those licenses — and in the end had 4,036 couples come to San Francisco to get married — it was about doing the right thing and standing on principal, not on making headlines or confronting any naysayers.
Early on, there were protests and a lot of hateful actions. But over the last 10 years, the public opinion has changed not only because of the court cases we’ve seen at every level across the country, but also because of the thousands of conversations that are happening over the dinner table, at birthday parties, driving to work, etc. and people realize that granting same-sex couples the right to get married is in the end no different than their own marriages.
Matthew Kaye: Should the transmission of HIV be decriminalized nationally?
The Moodie-Mills: Absolutely! From the beginning of the HIV epidemic, prevailing public misperceptions about the routes, risks, and consequences of HIV transmission have been wrought with homophobia, transphobia and stigma about LGBT people and people living with HIV — and public policy has often perpetuated that stigma. In 36 states, people living with HIV can be charged with felonies for having consensual sex, and for conduct, such as spitting or biting, which pose no measurable risk of HIV transmission. These laws don’t even require any evidence of intent to do harm, and they do nothing to curb HIV transmission. Instead they humiliate and devastate the lives of people who are already dealing with a myriad of health issues.
Lt. Governor Newsom: HIV and AIDS are very serious diseases. Too many people around the globe are still infected. Though we’ve been able to curb the rapid rate and spread of infections, work and investment still need to be done to find a cure. Access to health care needs to be increased, and we need to strengthen programs for support, including ending discrimination of those already infected.
Nathan Wesley: I’ll never forget when you said, “Oh, it’s coming whether you like it or not.” And now it’s basically here. Now let’s get marijuana moved from Schedule 1 with heroin (ahead of cocaine!) and down to Schedule 3 or 4 where it has always belonged.
Lt. Governor Newsom: Nathan, you are correct. Marijuana is currently listed as a schedule 1 drug, next to LSD and heroin and above cocaine. This schedule also means marijuana has no medical use whatsoever. With numerous research officials disproving that and personal stories of family members or friends benefitting from medical use of marijuana throughout the country, we now have 23 states and Washington, D.C., with laws allowing use of marijuana medically. We are also seeing members of congress calling for a change in the schedule and a shift in views for recreational use. You know that Colorado and Washington are already legally selling marijuana to adults, while Oregon and Alaska are looking at ballot initiatives in November.
In California we are working on an initiative that addresses age limits, taxation, regulation and education about smoking and eating marijuana — before taking it to the voters. It’s the old adage: If you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far go together. We want to do this right so we are looking at and learning from the implementation and application of legal recreational use in Colorado and Washington.
From Jennifer Jackson: With the current drought, what’s the direction California is taking on climate change?
Lt. Governor Newsom: One of California’s top priorities is combating climate change. Our focus is on adaptability and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A lot of work is happening in California. We are leading the way in fuel standards. Under AB 32, our goal is to return our emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020, which we are on track to do. Then we have a goal to reduce our emissions by 85% by 2050. We continue to explore and make use of alternate energy in wind and solar.
Additionally, as I sit on the California State Lands Commission, we are aggressively mapping our 1,000 miles of coastline, and the California Public Utilities Commission is establishing a framework for adaptability.
We also have a governor who believes we need to combat climate change as well. In the past four years, Gov. Brown has agreed and signed a pact with our neighbors in Oregon, as well as Mexico, China and Canada, to address greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
From Alan Bumgarner: What’s a good way for someone (young or old) to get more involved in advocacy in their communities? What are some good organizations to volunteer with?
Lt. Governor Newsom: I would advise any person looking to get involved to seek first to understand, then to be understood. Be open to argument and interested in evidence and not be ideological. I would say that everyone’s expression is unique – no on else has it. Be sure to maintain your authenticity and stand on principal, then volunteer with an organization you believe in.
At this point, it’s hard to expect anything good from politicians in Washington. They are going to continue using the border crisis as an excuse to [not] act on immigration, both, the president and congress. And if they ever give relief to the community, they will also militarize the border even more as a condition. What I expect from the rest of us, is to learn more about this border culture, why people are fleeing their homes, why that border is there and since when. The situation in which we live today has root-causes. We need to build grass-roots to change the communities we live in, where directly affected people are.
The Moodie-Mills: LGBT equality needs to be achieved on two fronts, through culture and through policy. All politics are local, so starting with your local government and making sure that the policies that are created are LGBT inclusive is of the utmost importance. Volunteer with local campaigns of candidates that support LGBT equality.
LGBT youth are some of the most vulnerable among us. They are more likely to be living on the streets than their heterosexual peers and more likely to attempt suicide. Working at your local LGBT youth center or chapters of national organizations like GLSEN [Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network] and The Trevor Project are great places to lend your time and talent.