Sam and Julia Thoron of San Francisco were selected by the No on Prop. 8 campaign for the first statewide TV commercial opposing the initiative to remove the recently won right of gay people to get married in California. They are the parents of three adult children, including a lesbian daughter named Elizabeth, and have been active in PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). They spoke to the media in Sacramento last week. This interview contains material from both the press conference Q&A and a short conversation afterwards.
Sam Thoron (on why they agreed to do the commercial): Over the years we have been very committed to the principle that our daughter deserves the same respect and dignity as her two straight brothers. If she does, so does everyone else. She deserves all the rights, privileges and obligations of citizenship in this state and this country. That includes the right that she now has to choose to get married to the person she loves. Marriage is the only thing that grants full respect and dignity, and that is why we are opposed to Proposition 8, which would eliminate her right to marry and that of thousands of others.
Julia Thoron: I can certainly second, third and fourth everything that Sam has said. It is extremely important for our children to have the same opportunities. Marriage is such a fundamental right. It is definitely an important social aspect to people’s lives, celebrating somebody’s wedding, the hope, the dreams, the future. Our daughter, and other men and women like her, deserve that.
KABC reporter Nanette Miranda: Can you take us through the thought process of why you would want to appear in a statewide commercial?
Sam: We did not put ourselves forward for this. We were asked. Over the course of the years, Julia and I both have been asked to do things on behalf of our daughter, on behalf of her equality, her respect and her dignity that have perhaps pushed our envelope a little bit. Each time we’ve had to say, do we care? The answer has always been yes. We really don’t have a choice when we asked to step forward and speak on her behalf.
Julie: We were asked to sign the argument in the voter handbook. Our name is going to be seen by as many people who walk through the ballot box. When you get asked to do something like this, we could not say no. It’s not a pattern of ours to be on television. It’s all a new experience. Sam I think that what is really key is that we do represent a family. We represent family values, caring for the health and welfare of our children, just like millions of other parents.
Julie (on her daughter not being in the commercial): We could have asked her. Her picture is in the ad. We’re not hiding anything. She’s at work.
Sam: She’s a project engineer for a major construction company based in San Francisco. She lives in Oakland. We live in San Francisco.
Julia: We’ve lived in Califronia since 1964. I grew up here.
CW: How would you describe your politics outside of this issue?
Sam: I would describe us as progressive.
CW: So your daughter coming out to you 18 years ago, what were your feelings on homosexuality and gay marriage back them?
Sam: I don’t think we thought that much about it. We lived in San Francisco, had gay friends, and had no particular feeling that it was wrong in any way. It’s just who people are. We believed in fundamental equality.
Julie: No dramatic stories.
Sam: My great-grandmother was part of the Underground Railroad in Ohio. It’s imbedded in the family.
CW: We’re hearing increasing rumblings of a lot of support for Prop. 8 coming out of the black community. Does that bother you?
Sam: Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and to vote their own conscience. I would like to persuade them that our position has some merit to it. But I’m not out here to tell you that anyone needs to vote my way just because it’s my way.
CW: Has there been any kind of personal backlash since you guys have agreed to do this?
Julie: None that we’re aware of. And we talk about it all the time. Anytime we can we talk about our activities in PFLAG and in the gay community and out passion for equality.