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Chancellor Birgeneau informs campus of likely impacts of Proposition 8

22 October 2008

As Chancellor of UC Berkeley, I am writing to inform you of the likely impacts on our campus of the passage of Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to civil marriage in the State of California. Of course, all members of the Berkeley community must exercise their own best judgment in deciding on how they wish to vote on this ballot measure.

In June of this year, the California Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutional right to marry for same-sex couples. This ruling supports UC Berkeley’s commitment to equity and inclusion by recognizing the family relationships of all members of our campus community, including lesbian and gay faculty, staff and students.

Proposition 8 is in conflict with the principles of equity and inclusion to which our campus is committed. Berkeley supports the full inclusion and equal treatment of all members of our community and we have affirmed the position that any treatment of individuals that is not equal and inclusive is discriminatory. In denying a fundamental civil right, passage of Proposition 8 would undermine these principles, not just for our LGBTQ community, but for all racial, religious and cultural minorities and would harm the university as a whole.

Inclusion provides the rich diversity of intellectual life and creative learning that are at the heart of this great university. Inclusiveness is a specific strategic advantage that allows us to attract and retain talented people who could easily choose to move to other parts of the country. For example, in Massachusetts, home to Harvard and MIT, who are among our greatest competitors for faculty, same-sex marriage has been legal for some years. It is recognized in states such as New York, home to Columbia and Cornell, who are also major rivals for top faculty. The constitutional right to marry in the State of California enhances UC Berkeley’s ability to attract and retain the very best students, staff and faculty, with the promise of equal treatment under the laws of our state. Social theorist Richard Florida has shown that the economic success of American cities is based on their ability to attract a “creative class” of “talented people who seek an environment open to differences.” Proposition 8 will harm the social conditions in our state that promote creativity, justice, and prosperity.

Although you must judge for yourselves how to vote, as you consider your ballot on November 4, 2008, I would urge you to take into account the impacts that passage of Proposition 8 would have on our campus community.

Robert J. Birgeneau
Chancellor, UC Berkeley