Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of Happiness

I am an immigrant to the United States.

In the process of becoming a citizen there was one document, with a wonderful snippet, that continues to be deeply inspiring for me. It reflects the promise of America.

The document was the United States Declaration of Independence [text here], and these words. . . .

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That last part forms for me the essence of what it means to be truly free.

It is a commitment, to you and to me and to us, of the opportunity that we are blessed with. An opportunity to make choices that you and I would like to as we live our humble lives.

One of those choices you and I can make is the choice of who we can marry.

It is in support of that choice that I request you to consider voting No on prop 8.

I have profound respect for the choice you make in whom to marry. I am asking that my right to marry the person of my choice be preserved.

And the right of my friends. And my neighbours. And my fellow citizens.

For Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Thank you.


Update: Nov 5th 2008, 1400 hrs.

I am deeply disappointed that Prop 8 passed. That we have now institutionalized and legalized civil discrimination against our own citizens in California.

But.

At the turn of the last century dogs and a specific race were asked to stay out public establishments.

Less than a hundred years ago one human gender could not even vote.

Less than fifty years ago one race in this country was asked to ride at the back of the bus, we still believed in "separate but equal".

Just eight years ago an American University ended a ban on interracial dating (something that would have prevented my beloved wife and I from ever being a couple).

I am confident that in my lifetime this nation will allow any person who wants to marry to marry, and marry the one they choose to marry.

I leave you with words that inspire me:


Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope.


-"I Have a Dream", Martin Luther King.


Update: Aug 4th 2010, 1400 hrs.

Today is a happy day.

Judge Vaughn Walker has found that it is unconstitutional to discriminate against same sex couples.

There is a sense of jubilation all around (not surprising given where I live). My tweet.

A small battle has been won.

It is hard to know the result of the war. I fear that there is no way Chief Justice John Roberts's court would uphold this ruling (even if it is upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals).

But that is a worry for another day. Today we pause and we celebrate a victory for humanity and equality for each person in the United States of America (just as our founding fathers would have wanted).


Update: Dec 22nd 2010, 1500 hrs.

Today is another happy day. President Barack Obama signed into law the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell policy of the US Military. Now if you want to die for your country then who you choose as your partner, male or female, will no longer be a barrier.

DADT's repeal survived virulent opposition by many, including some top leaders in the US Marines and some top politicians like John McCain.

One more small victory for Americans and Equality.


Update:Jun 26th 2011, 0900 hrs.

New York state voted late last night to legalize gay marriage. Hurray!

As one of the largest US states NY can shine a beacon of hope to so many others. And I can't wait for the next couple of years to prove the naysayers wrong about what happens if gay marriage is approved.

One more nail into the coffin of bigotry.


Update:Jun 26th 2013, 0900 hrs.

The US Supreme Court struck down California's Prop 8! Well they did not so much strike it down as upheld Judge Vaughan Walker's ruling striking down Prop 8 on grounds that the Plaintiff did not have standing. Imperfect, but we'll take it. In a different case the court also found DOMA (the horrid Defence of Marriage Act) to be unconstitutional. This is a very big deal because in the eyes of the federal government, in all 50 states, same-sex marriages will be the same as all other marriages. Awesome day.


Update:Aug 29th 2013, 0900 hrs.

The dominos are falling all over the place. I wanted to update with the decision by the Treasury Department to recognize all marriages, gay or straight, in all stages. So our gay peers can be married in the 13 states that recognize gay marriage, they can live in the other 37 and still file jointly! Far reaching decision (along with similar ones by our immigration authorities). Progress!

Comments

  1. 1
    Jenbug says:

    Thanks for this Avinash. I always appreciate what a principled thinker you are. Respect :)

  2. 2
    Daniel Waisberg says:

    You are such a noble man, Avinash. As you usually say, it is not about data, it is not about numbers, it is about mindset. And you really set the mindset for the industry and generally, not only analytically speaking; I guess that's why you are considered a guru: you fully deserve this adjective!

    You are an example.

  3. 3
    Matt says:

    I live in NY, so can't vote on this one. But since I am from California and have many friends and relatives there I have encouraged them to vote "no" on 8.

  4. 4
    Deve says:

    I always find your information on the lastest web analytics tools fundamentally sound. Quite naturally, considering there relevant youth in the analytics industry.

    However, it is refreshing to get a taste of the Avinash we all don't know so well. Keep up the great work.

  5. 5

    Amen, Avinash! I don't live in CA, but I would vote no if I did. Thanks for using your visibility for such an important cause.

  6. 6
    Eric says:

    I don't live in CA either (anymore), or I would vote "no". Sometimes an immigrant can see the value of our freedom better than a natural born citizen. Thanks for reminding us, Avinash!

  7. 7
    Lee says:

    What a nice surprise! I've been reading your blog for a year and a half and (of course)I've got the book, so you're someone I admire greatly for the level of understanding you've brought to the web analytics world.

    Seeing a post like this makes me admire you on a completely different level. I agree with you that our founding documents set forth a plan where individual liberty is our most important right — and all the fruits we enjoy come from that personal freedom.

  8. 8
    Mahdi Kohn says:

    Why not offer civil unions with the same rights and bypass this issue? We did that in France.

  9. 9
    Erica says:

    Thanks, Avinash. I hope No on 8 comes across loud and clear tomorrow.

  10. 10
    James D says:

    Like others here I hold your blog and your expertise in the highest regard.

    But you should stick to your area of expertise and not push your political point of view that does not emanate from your unique expertise.

    James

  11. 11
    Janet says:

    Thanks for this, Avinash. Thanks for your courage in speaking up!

  12. 12
    Johnathan B says:

    So Adam and Steve are the same as my grandmother and grandfather? Hmm… Obama's not for it, so neither am I

  13. 13
    Michael Harrison says:

    Thanks for putting out the message, Avinash. I don't live in California either, but I'm with you 100% on prop 8.

  14. 14
    Simon Tu says:

    A surprising post from you Avinash, usually it is all about web analytics. You remind us that there is life outside web analytics and we get to know more about the man behind Occam's Razor.

    It is brave of you to stand up for what you believe in.

    Simon.

  15. 15
    Jen says:

    I really appreciate these rare posts when you remind us that this blog is personal. We get a little view of the man behind the analytics evangelism. And their rarity emphasizes the passion you feel for those few personal things that do bubble up. Thank you for sharing with us. -Jen

  16. 16
    roxana vasquez says:

    That is a beautiful quote, thanks for sharing it Avinash. I hope Americans can all embrace the wisdom on these words and be one of the countries leading the example of tolerance.

    muchos saludos!

  17. 17
    Brent says:

    @12. The answer to your question is… Yes. Human beings are human beings.

    As long as the state is in the business of giving marriages, then their must be equal rights.

    All the bigotry and backlash against this right, however, has made me believe that the government should not be allowed to give marriages, only civil unions. If people want the religious symbol of a marriage, then they can do so in a church. There are also non-bigoted churches that would grant gay marriages as well.

  18. 18

    Everyone: Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate both the "take a hike" and "good for you" comments. I really do.

    Mahdi: My wife and I, as a married couple, enjoy rights that are superior (sadly) to that enjoyed by couples that are joined in civil unions [atleast here in the United States].

    Not to be too hard core about it but we humbly believe in equal rights for all human beings.

    Jonathan: Politicians of all hues will sacrifice anything at the alter of vested interests (minority or majority). I hope you'll make up your mind based on what you believe in, not what a politician is for or against.

    Here's the Wikipedia page with plenty of links for and against Prop 8: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prop_8

    Thanks.

    -Avinash.

  19. 19
    Mike says:

    You must see how Onion has translated this:

    ==
    The United States was founded in 1776 on the principles of life, liberty and the reckless pursuit of happiness at any cost- even life and liberty.
    ==

    source: http://www.theonion.com/content/atlas/

  20. 20
    Arthur says:

    After some years of discussion you can marry anyone you like in my country. Believe me, we are still doing fine.

  21. 21
    Diane Charles says:

    Thank you for your wonderful post. I agree with you on this. The institution of traditional marriage must be destroyed in order to build a new society.

    Hopefully you've voted today for the change we need.

    -D

  22. 22
    Mahdi Kohn says:

    Avinash –

    Yes, I meant civil unions with full rights!! It's a question of equality

  23. 23
    Nelson says:

    Hi Avinash,

    While I agree with your assessment that people should be able to marry whom they please, I disagree with any sort of special rights or tax exemptions for married couples. As a single person I can't fathom why a married couple (regardless of sexual orientation) should receive any preferential treatment, tax breaks or otherwise, over non-married people. I believe it harks back to a when getting married and starting a family was the "right" thing to do and therefore should be rewarded. This is the same sort of bias that leads to your proposal 8. Of course there's a simple solution: less government involvement in all facets of our lives. That's part of freedom.

  24. 24
    Jilll Anderson says:

    Well said. And I must say that this is a bold move for a famous (stroke stroke) blogger such as yourself to make a statement on such a controversial issue. I'm proud of you!!

  25. 25

    You have my support, Avinash.

  26. 26

    Billy: I agree with you. The tax code does need a rewrite (on multiple fronts).

    If I am not mistaken though my wife and I were hit with the "marriage penalty" after we got married, when it came to taxes. Bummer. With children of certain income groups you are right that there is a child break you get ($800 I think).

    I believe that treating married and single people as the same is probably the "next step". First we much fight to ensure that anyone who wants to marry can marry (whomever they choose). Then let's take their tax penalties or breaks away!

    :)

    -Avinash.

  27. 27
    Anonymous says:

    You are already free to "marry" (although it's not that word that's used) anyone you want to in California… it's considered a civil union. Just because you want to use the word "marriage" to somehow further legitimize a same-sex couple's union as something less than abominable to a certain portion of the population doesn't mean that it will. And there are not restrictions in place for homosexuals to be together anyway, so this proposition will do little to hinder common freedoms of individuals to do as they please in our society.

    Considering that Prop 8 has likely passed at this point in time, I think you may want to consider how much of America really shares your sentiments that we pursue life, liberty, and happiness in all the same ways that you choose to do so. The reason this country functions as relatively well as it has is that different views are vetted by the voting process. Just because you have an opinion, doesn't mean that your way is the right way to do something.

    No one took away your right to be gay, if that's what your post implied. Your right to be considered on equal footing as a citizen of this country in the eyes of the law has not been taken away either. Your right to demand that others consider same-sex unions as no different from the natural (and let's face it, a man and a woman being married produces children, not a man and a man or a woman and a woman – it's physiologically impossible) has been removed if Prop 8 passes, but how does that restrict your life, liberty, or happiness?

    ________________________________________
    Anonymous: I always reply to comments on my blog via email, but you did not leave a real email address. I would love to talk via email, even if briefly. You can reach me at blog at kaushik dot net.

    But even if you don't, let me say that I am grateful for your comments. I welcome different perspectives and your have added more information for me to consider, for my readers to think about. My sincerest thanks.

    I wish it were as simple as you make it out to be. Civil Unions with full rights. It is not. Yesterday I am sure you noted two ballot measures passed in Arkansas. One of those bans adoption of children by gay couples. Equality?

    -Avinash.

  28. 28
    Dr. Pete says:

    I was saddened this morning to find that your post still falls on many deaf ears. Although I don't profess to be Christian, I was raised Christian (my father and brother are Protestant ministers), and I find it ironic that a message with no room for hate is so often used to justify hate and bigotry.

    It's unfortunate that politicians chose to make gay marriage a wedge issue while some of them continued to cheat on their wives and neglect their children (and, let's remember, "Do not commit adultery" was an actual Commandment). The real assault on family values is people who neglect their families and ignore their own faults while pointing the finger at others. Protecting our families starts at home, with doing our best to love and cherish the people we have promised our lives to.

  29. 29
    Sarah says:

    I agree, I'm confident we'll see such issues as Prop 8 dissolve away in my lifetime, too. We're already almost there.

    It's great to hear you say something positive came out of the immigration process, as so much of it seems so dismal. My fiance is currently in line for a greencard, but it's been such a mess that I've felt ashamed of this country of mine. I just hope we can both come out the other end thinking as positively as you seem to be. :)

  30. 30
    pere rovira says:

    As we all are, I guess, good and professional web analysts, we should base our decisions on reliable data and not on beliefs.

    In Spain, we did a simple A/B test. In 2004, we approved gay marriage.

    Straight couples still get married and are proud of it. Gay couples do the same. And we all keep on living like we did, there are NO problems at all, except that gay people enjoy a bit more freedom.

    I see no reason, therefore, to go back to test page A, do you? :)

    Those who claim that gay marriage can be harmful are just cowards afraid to test their own beliefs. Weak beliefs, I must say, when you show so much fear.

  31. 31
    Jimmy Smith says:

    I enjoy your Web analytics topics, but must disagree with your political opinion. I am very pleased that the people of California choose to protect and preserve the divine institution of marriage.

  32. 32
    Daniel Shaw says:

    I commend you for taking a stand, publicly, on this issue Avinash. Far too often we stand by and watch. You are an inspiration.

    Loved the update to this post as well.

  33. 33
    Kajagugu says:

    I was surprised at first to see this post, but I definitely commend you for taking a stand. What surprised me even more was the following article:
    http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/article5082577.ece

    It basically puts Google in the middle of a big debate over advertising content and implies support of prop 8. Since you are a big Google proponent, I was wondering if you were aware that this was going on and what thought about it.

    It saddens me deeply that prop 8 passed. Especially with such a tiny margin. I don't understand how a constitutional amendment can be made with only 51% of the votes.

    One step forward, two steps back?

  34. 34

    Hello Avinash. It's been a while. San Fran has already sued to stop it. But if you look at the demographics all age groups over 30 voted for it. Give it time, it'll be overturned as the younger generations continue on as they are more socially liberal on issues. For the Pro on 8 this is a radical change of the definition of marriage and change comes slow. http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/individual/#CAI01

  35. 35

    Re: Kajagugu. Google's position on this issue is that they allow both sides to equally use advertising to advance their position. On a personal note I don't believe Google should get into a position of blocking one side simply because they don't necessarily agree with them. Whether you agree or disagree with this proposition or any political issue information on the pros and cons of each should be widely available. Some bloggers were saddened that pro on 8 advertising showed up on there blog, but there are measures available to block it if you don't want your readers to view it.

  36. 36
    Cole says:

    Pere, humorous comparison with A/B testing!

    Avinash, I live in California and also voted NO on Prop 8. I'm sorry to see it passed. Although I'm happy we took a step forward electing Obama. Unfortunately, many of our religious institutions are still fine discriminating against gays. It's my understanding they led aggressive campaigns that probably made the difference on Prop 8. I agree with Jeff. I think as younger voters get older we'll finally see gays get equal treatment.

  37. 37

    Sadly, I don't totally agree with Cole's comment "I think as younger voters get older we’ll finally see gays get equal treatment."

    I live in South Africa where equality is enshrined in our Constitution, but where some (many – most!) of the most virulent homophobia comes from young people – many (most!) of whom profess a strong religious or cultural aversion to gays ("homosexuality is a sin" – "homosexuality is a Western evil which Africans don't practice" – and so on).

    The only real, long-term solution – and it's going to take generations, I'm afraid – is for gay people to lead the kind of lives that others look up to. Lives that are based on solid ethical rather than moral principles (ethics being universal truths, while 'morals' are the various religions' way of bending ethics to their own questionable ends).

    Avinash's original post is a fine example of the ethical path.

  38. 38
    Jason B says:

    To Mahdi, anonymous and the rest who harp on civil unions: they passed such a law here in Washington State, only to have another group of people force a referendum (Ref 71) in this election to have it ratified.

    The "everything but marriage" stance is now revealed as yet another talking point for denying certain segments of the population equal rights.

  39. 39
    Don says:

    Avinash, Awesome though provoking post. I Rt'ed It. I Agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments. Keep it Coming. Much Respect.

Trackbacks

  1. […] The amendment to the state constitution would add a line stating that only marriage between a man and a woman is recognised in California, preventing future same-sex marriage and rendering any existing same-sex marriages void under California law. There is simply no rational argument for preventing two people who love each other from marrying each other: EVEN if they do BOTH have the same bits. If you believe in freedom, or even just tolerance for people who have done you no harm, you know what to do. […]

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