I sent the following letter to Bush and Cheney today. I don’t honestly expect it to make any difference. I believe the man’s homophobia is so ingrained that he is unwilling to change. However, we do live in a democracy and it is both our right and our responsibility to let our elected officials know what we think. So, I’ve done so. If I vanish suddenly in the next few days, well, you’ll know why… 🙂
As an American citizen, I was dismayed by the attempt earlier this year to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment. At best it was an attempt to further divide the country during election season and at worst it was an attempt to write discrimination into our Constitution.
You recently were quoted in the press as saying, “To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust. A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation. We have one country, one constitution, and one future that binds us. And when we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America.”
Yet, from my perspective, Karl Rove’s recent statements on Fox News show no signs of your intending to reach out to the millions of gay and lesbian Americans. If you really wish to heal the wounds of the last four years, I urge you to withdraw your support from this mendment.
There are many reasons why this amendment is both unnecessary and wrong for America.
In the debates you were asked if you thought that gay people chose to be homosexual or if they were simply born. You answered that you didn’t know. If that was an honest answer then I commend you on your honesty though I would hope that you would take the time to learn the answers before forming a policy. The truth is that most people don’t get to choose their sexuality. Mr. Kerry was right in his response that you should ask Mary Cheney though he took media heat for it. Few people would choose a path that would subject them to violent hate from a small, but vocal part of the population. Discriminating against people because of their differences – especially when those differences are through no fault of their own – isn’t something that should exist in law, much less in our most cherished of guiding documents, the Constitution.
I believe that I’ve heard you quoted in the media as saying that “the institution of marriage must be protected.” I’m not sure what that means. Protected from what? From whom? How does the marriage of two people of the same sex hurt or even slightly diminish the marriage of two heterosexual people?
Marriage, particularly in the last century has really consisted of two different ideas. There is religious marriage and civil marriage. Religious marriage is obviously administered by the various churches and religious bodies throughout the country. Civil marriage is administered by the state. The two, while related, are different. They are related because the state grants authority to some members of the clergy to perform civil marriage. They are different because one can obtain a civil marriage without religious marriage.
This is clear in existing practice. For example, many Roman Catholics are married in the Church and then subsequently divorce. If they choose to marry again in the future they may not do so in the Catholic Church because the Catholic Church does not recognize the dissolution of the original marriage, yet the state does recognize the ending of the civil marriage, allowing the possibility of the subsequent civil marriage.
I do not dispute the right of any religious body to conduct religious marriage ceremonies for whomever they choose. That marriage ceremony, while important in one’s spiritual life, has no meaning to the state. Nor should it because of the separation of church and state fundamental to our democracy. Religious marriage is not threatened in any way the state granting civil marriage to any couple. If that were true then the example above (and others like it) would show that harm, but religious marriage is thriving and not harmed in the slightest.
Several countries have begun granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples or granting civil unions with the same legal benefits as marriage. I am not aware of how these marriages have harmed any other marriage.
The claim has also been made that marriage is for procreation. While most couples do have children, I am aware of many married couples that do not have children either because they do not desire them or because they have been unable to have children. Does the lack of a child lessen their marriage in the eyes of the state?
Others have claimed that to grant allow same-sex marriage would hurt families. Again, I fail to see how. If it is through some fear that this will make homosexuality more popular then it is a misguided fear. Gay people do not choose to be gay. They simply recognize that they are. While recognition of same-sex marriages might make it easier for some to live their lives openly and without fear it would not hurt the family at all. Quite the opposite would be true. Gays and lesbian Americans have families also and the granting of marriage licenses would allow all families to be protected instead of just some.
You have been heard to use the phrase “activist judges” and Mr. Rove was also heard to use the phrase on Fox News. It appears to me that you have used this phrase whenever any judge rules against your position. It is the responsibility of the judicial branch to interpret our laws. Sometimes our laws are contradictory and the judge must untangle this as recently happened in Massachusetts. While you may disagree with the decision, using emotion-laden terms such as “activist judge” does nothing but try to cast our judicial system in an unfavorable light. If our legislative branch did its job properly and thought through the implications of the laws it passes then our judicial system would have less untangling to do.
Finally, gays and lesbians aren’t asking for something new. Couples have been living together since the beginning of human history. For lesbian and gay couples this has been marriage in all but name. Until the last roughly 100 years it didn’t matter because it has only been in that time that the state has begun granting significant rights to those that are married. From the perspective of the gay and lesbian population – perhaps 10% of the population – the federal marriage amendment would be to turn us into second class citizens. The federal government would be sending a clear message that our relationships aren’t held to be as real and as meaningful as heterosexual relationships. There are over 1,000 rights and protections that are implicitly granted to a married couple. Lesbian and gay couples can only create the protections of some of a small subset of these through the legal system. Denying these rights solely because same-sex relationships are atypical is discrimination. No other word describes the situation.
Many – though by no means all – clergy believe homosexuality is wrong, they also believe that divorce is wrong. Yet the government recognizes divorce. Why does the government take the view that divorce is to be allowed if it is wrong on religious grounds? The truth is that matters of religion are best left to religious institutions. Medical science has determined that homosexuality is not a disease. There is nothing medically or psychologically wrong with the millions of Americans that were born homosexual. For the government to deny them the right to protect their families can only be seen as discrimination.
To support the Federal Marriage Amendment would be not just promoting discrimination but it would be to put hate speech against our own people into our Constitution. Could any true American want this to happen? This document has been the foundation of our democracy. It has been the document that guarantees Americans rights and freedoms envied the world over. The last time we tried to take away rights with the Constitution was Prohibition and thankfully we recognized that this was a bad idea and repealed it. Let us not make the same mistake twice.
If you truly want to bring the country together after the bitterness of the campaign, then withdrawing your support for the Federal Marriage Amendment would be a good first step. A second step would be to support legislation that would grant the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. These steps would only strengthen our nation.
This might be a politically unpopular move but you say that you are a president that is not afraid to take an unpopular stand if it is the right thing to do. If you truly want to be a president for all Americans then it will be clear that what I have suggested is the right thing to do.
Thank you for your time and consideration and I hope and pray to hear that you will see that discrimination is not the right path for America.
CC: Mr. Cheney