November 01, 2005

My letter to Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee

Lakeland, Florida
November 1, 2005

Dear Senator,

I urge you to oppose all attempts to pass the Marriage Protection Amendment. The proposed amendment does nothing to protect marriage as it exists -- but much to destroy whatever hope gays and lesbians have to experience the same "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" taken for granted by other Americans.

Last week religious leaders and social conservatives within the Republican Party celebrated their power to undermine a Supreme Court nomination. This week they are attempting to block a minority of citizens from attaining the basic human rights guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution.

Because they supported Republican candidates for Congress, the groups opposed to equality demand an entitlement to their choice of federal judges and to a Constitutional amendment that furthers their political views. They build such demands on reminders of the "twenty years or more" they have spent "fighting in the trenches" for their agenda.

Unlike their twenty-year wait, my wait to enjoy the rights promised by the US Constitution has been not for twenty or thirty or forty years -- but for my entire life. Along the way I have fulfilled a military obligation. I have been a law-abiding citizen. I have served my community and worked to build a better future for the country I love.

My ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War, and every war since, to protect our homeland. Every time they put their lives on the line, they did so alongside gays and lesbians -- patriots who also bled and died to ensure that "all men are created equal" applied to the minority as well as the majority.

So, I am not amused by the voices of prejudice and oppression who demand that my rights shall be ignored forever. I do not intend to disappear from the face of the earth because they are offended by my existence or my expectation of legal equality.

The opponents of same-sex marriage, or its legal equivalent, have never explained how the granting of equal rights -- whatever those rights are called -- deprives anyone else of his or her own rights and personal convictions.

Where are the proposals to deny straights their choice of marriage partners? Where are the proposals to force anyone, gay or straight, into a same-sex marriage? They do not exist.

Perhaps I've missed a big story out of Massachusetts, but indications are that legalized gay marriage has not caused the cancellation of traditional wedding ceremonies, the closing of churches, the breakup of heterosexual families or the abuse of a single child. In fact, Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate in the nation -- half the rate of states in which legal rights for gays are most vehemently opposed. (Divorce Rates by State)

Senator, I appeal to you, before you support anti-gay legislation, to try putting yourself into the shoes of your fellow citizens:

What if you knew that you could never, for your entire lifetime, legally marry the person you love? You could never experience any relationship that resembles marriage? You could never expect the family security that even convicted criminals take for granted? You could never adopt children, even the biological children of your life partner?

What would you do? Would you live your entire life in shame or denial? Would you accept the morality espoused by Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and Pat Robertson over your own humanity, spirituality and life experience? Or would you demand your birthright as a human being and an American citizen?

The proponents of anti-gay legislation base their arguments upon religious doctrine and personal conviction, yet they would never, under any circumstance, accept an amended Constitution reflecting my religious beliefs and my personal convictions. How, under our Constitution, did their beliefs and convictions become superior to mine?

Senator, I hope that you agree with me that we are never safe in basing laws for everyone upon the religious views of some, whether those beliefs belong to me or to the people whose goal is to destroy my rights. All of us are better served -- even in the practice of religion itself -- by laws derived not from religion or personal prejudice, but from an acceptance of equality and a respect for our differences. That is what our country's greatest document demands, both in spirit and in letter.

I beg you to resist the voices of prejudice, demagoguery and political opportunism. Please do not allow the destruction of the American dream. Not only would a Constitutional amendment damage the lives of American citizens, it would destroy the very foundation upon which our country was established.


Gary said...

Bravo baby!

Nice job...I hope those repugnant fucks listen.

Extremely well constructed arguement!

FYI...I have a Revolutionary Soldier in my past too. We are both products of a proud and old American lineage. The died for us! Now it is time to demand payment for the blood-debt made in the name of America!

aikane said...

You are right. I don't know what my Revolutionary War grandfathers would think about gays, but I think they would expect me to fight for the same rights for which they fought (and for which one of them gave his life, near Charlottesville, VA).

Paul N. said...

Hey Aik,

I'm not going to try to refute your arguments. You know where I stand on it.

But I would counter that the "state" does put restrictions on straights. They can't marry their sisters, or brothers, or other inter-family relations. Although I think in West Virginia it's still encouraged...hahaha

We can't be married to two women (or more) at the same time.

I know I on the opposite side of this argument from you, but I never figured I had a "right" to marry someone.

But then again, how did it come about that the state started to control the marriage issue? Wasn't it on Blondesense last year - something about how the state simply "recognized" marriages performed by the churches?

Seems to me like a never ending debate.

aikane said...

Paul, you don't think you have the "right" to marry the woman you love? Your argument against gay marriage, then, could be just as easily applied to heterosexual marriage: if the state recognizes the marriage between one man and one woman, what's to stop him from marrying his sister or his mother? What does that false argument have to with with same-sex marriage any more than with opposite-sex marriage? Nothing. If you can see a distinction between one man marrying one woman, rather than a dozen women or his sister or mother, you can just as easily see the distinction between one man marrying one man only, rather than a dozen men or his brother or father.

As you know, some people on your side of the argument can't resist throwing in children, animals and dead people, so I suppose there's still hope for you. :-)

Under current laws, a death row inmate can legally wed his prostitute sweetheart, and that's OK -- but marriage (or its equivalent) for me and my partner of 28 years is cursed? I don't understand those values. Under current laws, same-sex marriages are recognized in one state but illegal in another; gays may adopt children in one state but not in another; employers may not discriminate against gays in one state but may in another. Yet we all were born with the same inalienable rights. Do you believe the U.S. Constitution -- one that I and my forefathers defended -- should be changed to exclude me explicitly from even being treated as your equal? What is right about that?

How is your marriage damaged if spend my life with a man rather than a woman? Just think, that's less competition for you, because lots of women would prefer someone like me -- loyal and loving and supportive -- to men who have little respect for women, and who project hatred toward certain other men -- once they are identified as being gay. (That may or may not describe you personally, but I know from experience it does describe many men.) Search your heart. If you knew me and liked me, would you be so quick to damn all my dreams to hell? Or would you even allow yourself to become acquainted with a gay man? Could you look me in the eyes and tell me that I have no right, ever, to be granted any legal protections for a life-long loving relationship? Is it only the word "marriage" for same-sex relationships that is disturbing to you, or do you also wish to deny me any or all rights considered the equivalent to marriage?

If you want the state to simply "recognize" marriages performed by churches, I assume you're OK with same-sex marriages that are performed by the church? Some churches already perform same-sex ceremonies, but why should any church -- one that approves or one that disapproves of same-sex relationships -- have anything to do with what is purely a legal contract acknowledged by the state for hundreds of rights you get that I don't? We've discussed those rights before, so I won't belabor the inequities. And that's what it's all about under our Constitution -- equality under the law.

Paul N. said...

Could you look me in the eyes and tell me that I have no right, ever, to be granted any legal protections for a life-long loving relationship? Is it only the word "marriage" for same-sex relationships that is disturbing to you, or do you also wish to deny me any or all rights considered the equivalent to marriage?------------

Not really. I see marriage as the ideal in life - though many of us fall far short of that one. I've got a prior offense myself.

I think it's the word "marriage". Even though the failures of marriages are legion, it's still a something to strive for. I honestly feel the same way about "common law" marriages. When you think about it, the state doesn't encourage people to shack up, but if they've shacked up for 7 years, the state recognizes that as a marriage. Now, to me, I don't care what the state calls it, that's no more a marriage than two guys being married.

But it makes for an interesting argument. If the state can, after the fact, "codify" what, religiously speaking, is "immoral" can it not do the same with gays? Hard to argue against it, looking at it that way. I haven't heard anyone make that argument, though.

A few years ago, yes, I'd be quick to damn all your dreams to hell. Then I came home the Catholic church. Is everything in life black and white? A few things are, but most things are various shades of grey, I think. But we talked about all that stuff last year.

I think a reasonable half-way point is workable. I think some of the resistance is because -rightly or wrongly - it *appears* as though the door is being kicked in on the marriage club.

It's like having a wife - presentation is everything. If I say, "Look, woman, the Capitals are on tonight and I'm watching it, so tough noogies on Lifetime TV, got it?". She's going to say, "Hey, asshole, there's the friggin' door".

Now, if I get close and whisper, "Hey schnookie wookie schweetums, mind if I catch the Caps game?", she might let me watch a period.....

This post has taken me an hour and a half to compose because WORK is getting in the way......

aikane said...

Paul, I appreciate that you're thinking about the subject and trying to maintain an open mind, so I will try to respond in kind.

* Re marriage being "something to strive for": I agree. That is the ideal, an ideal I cannot experience. Yet, failing that, I would gladly accept the same privileges under any other name. However, no one has offered equality under another name, and life is not long enough for me to fight for every single legal protection guaranteed to you through a simple act of marriage.

When I write about "rights," I am referring to the rights that every citizen deserves under the law, whatever his sexuality, i.e., the "right" to strive for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Without protections offered by the Constitution and courts, any protection I am granted today can be lost by another vote by someone tomorrow. Gains made by one generation can be lost by the next. Imagine that your rights and your future rested entirely on people you had never met, people who don't even like who you are. And of course the reason for the letter I posted is that some demagogues are not satisfied with barring the door to same-sex marriage or its equivalent now -- they want to change the Constitution itself. Apparently they agree with me that, as written, the Constitution actually means what it says, that every citizen is equal under the law.

* Re the state "codifying" a union considered "immoral" by some religions: That was one of my arguments about religion, although I do not consider myself immoral. Religion should play no role in state-sanctioned legal unions. If we base laws on religious doctrine, whose religion would be acceptable?

* Re kicking down the door on the marriage club: Not sure what you mean there. I haven't noticed any bombings, rioting in the streets, or other unsociable behavior coming from pro-gay advocates. Isn't that just another of the right-wing scare tactics -- the gays are coming to get you? :-) Think about it. Is trying to get laws passed to protect one's family kicking down doors? Is writing a letter to a US senator kicking down doors? Is appealing to courts for equal treatment kicking down doors? Is standing on the court house steps in San Francisco or Massachusetts and holding the hand of the person you love kicking down doors?

Those efforts, made by loving people baring their hearts and pleading for their part of the American dream, seem legitimate to me. I know of countless examples of gays and lesbians being victimized by people who hate them; I can't think of an example of gays initiating acts of hate toward straights. I don't think you or your family have anything to fear from gays; I know you have nothing to fear from me.

But how long should we wait? Isn't 200 years long enough?

via said...

Good discussion, Paul and Aikane. I am a humanist, and don't find the idea of same-sex unions threatening to "traditional" male-female marriage in any respect. Two people joining together in a loving, supportive relationship can only be a positive thing and should be respected, supported and celebrated legally as well as socially.

Paul N. said...

Regarding "kicking down the door" I don't mean violence in the streets or anything like that - I'm thinking more of the perception of "WE WANT WHAT YOU'VE GOT AND WE WANT IT NOW!!!" And I certainly am not impugning you, since you've always been decent but firm about the issue.

In my mind, the state has no power to "make" a marriage real or not, they simply make a legal designation of a marriage that has occurred or will occur.

I believe that marriage comes from religion, in a sense, although it's not necessary to be religious to get married. So I start obviously from there - that marriage comes from God, whether that's a Creator, or God, or the Cosmic Energy Unknown To Us.

The idea of the state "redefining" it into simply a "contract" is something I'm not ready to hand over to the state, although I have to admit, I'm very libertarian in my views of the "state".

Are civil unions enough? Many on your side of the argument say that no, it isn't enough, they want the full plate - 100% no distinction in marriage whatsoever. I think that's what even the non-religious and otherwise slack-jawed object to.

Ask the average person about civil unions, and I think many, even the religious, will shrug and say "Yea, okay". But tell them that you want Gay Marriage with no distinction from Straight Marriage and they'll be beside themselves.

As to changing the constitution, my only thought is that there are so many legal aspects to marriage, what does one state do when another has it? I'm no fan of the federal government, and I'm all for states rights, but I could forsee a clash of one states' rights against the Constitution. Then what does the goverment do? Force all states to have the same laws (and not just on marriage)?

I don't know. It's certainly not a simple question.

Similar to the Catholic-Orthodox talks that have gone on since 1054, I think you could debate the issue for a thousand years and still not resolve it to either's satisfaction. But it's much more interesting than talking about what Oprah has on this week.... :o)

aikane said...

Via, thanks for the comments. Obviously, I agree whole-heartedly. :-)

aikane said...

Paul, Paul... remember the 200 years gays have been waiting for a semblance of equality with their brothers and sisters. It's not like we haven't waited patiently. Wasn't it ONLY last year the Supreme Court finally recognized that gays could engage in sexual activities IN THEIR OWN HOMES without fear of prosecution? Come on. Picture yourself living your ENTIRE LIFE and never being permitted, under the law, to have sex with the person you love, or to enter into a legal agreement giving you the same rights that 90% of the population take for granted -- in the country you were born and for which you had given your life. Yet that's OK for me? I shouldn't even ask, either quietly or loudly, for recognition of my own existence?

You can walk into a wedding chapel or appear before a justice of the peace or notary public, sign on the dotted line, and your spouse shares your life and your legal rights, no questions asked. She has children, gays and lesbians may subsidize their insurance premiums; you die, the new wife may draw benefits from the government for 50 years, no questions asked -- benefits I paid for, yet my partner of a lifetime gets ZILCH when I die. In your case, in fact, more than one previous wife may draw Social Security benefits from your account, even after your death. I die tomorrow, NOBODY gets anything. And this in a country that tells me to shut up and go away and make no claim to equality.

If anyone is childish, isn't it the person who shouts at me, "Marriage is mine, you don't deserve it and I will do all within my power to stop you from getting it -- now and forever!"

Paul, most gays aren't even identifiable walking down the street, working at the desk next to yours, or sitting next to you in church Sunday morning. So, your perception of us is not accurate. It's a stereotype painted by my enemies. In fact, the people screaming the loudest are the people who are not affected in any way by my life -- people using gays and lesbians to raise money, to stir misunderstandings and hatreds, to win elections and basically to fight against my acceptance at every level -- spiritually, emotionally, socially, legally and financially.

A quick point on states' rights: you may be willing to let individual states make decisions on same-sex unions, but that opinion is not reflected in the Republican Party's efforts to amend the US Constitution. Do you think it's OK to be married in one state, but cross the state line and you're no longer married? That idea is dead on arrival, and contrary to everything the Constitution represents. The concept failed with slavery and miscegenation, and it fails to address my citizenship now.

Now, to the term "marriage": your own marriage may be rooted in a religious ceremony, but neither you nor the state denies marriage to non-religious people. In our secular society, religion is simply not the basis for or against marriage between different-sex or same-sex couples. If you believe in God, or the Creator, yes, LOVE comes from God or the Creator -- just as my sexuality comes from God or the Creator, and my love is precious and spiritual and blessed by God. Still not a state issue. And, since you are a Christian, the final word has to go to Jesus Christ, who taught that God is Love. I don't think you'll find that He condemned me.

Finally, you may have been married in a church, but your marriage is not a legal union until registered with the state. If you believe that you and I are created equal and that our Constitution acknowledges that equality, then the state's responsibility is to recognize our unions and relationships, not to bless yours and destroy mine, unless there exists some overwhelming reason to believe that my relationship is destructive to other families -- something that cannot be proven because it simply is not true.

Perhaps, then, the simplest solution is the creation of civil, legal unions for everyone who chooses to commit their lives to the man or woman they love, whether same-sex or opposite-sex, and to encourage religious ceremonies -- marriage, if you will -- for all those who seek the additional blessing of their faith. Everyone wins, no one loses. Your marriage changes in no way, yet I am able to enjoy the same legal rights and protections in the eyes of the law (and some religious institutions as well). It's something to consider -- yet I doubt that many on the conservative side would be willing to accept my equality at any level. What do you think?

Paul N. said...

As I said, I think there are alot of conservatives (maybe not the majority) who'd go along with civil unions. The secular conservatives, sure. The religious conservatives, no.

You said:
"Now, to the term "marriage": your own marriage may be rooted in a religious ceremony, but neither you nor the state denies marriage to non-religious people. In our secular society, religion is simply not the basis for or against marriage..."

In Western culture, it has been the basis - the state simply recognized them after the fact. When exactly the state began to dictate who could/couldn't marry, I don't know. I imagine that the state had their "justices of the peace", but primarily, marriage was a religious thing. I don't know that I'd say we're a secular society, although I'd certainly say we're moving in that direction.

I would argue, from my libertarian viewpoint, that the state has no rigth to tell ANY church who it can or can't marry. The state does have the right, I think, whether or not to recognize those marriages.

The state, in my opinion, has no right to tell me who I can or can't marry. Now, if that were constitutionally true, the state wouldn't be able to tell you not to marry your partner.

You said:
"..then the state's responsibility is to recognize our unions and relationships, not to bless yours and destroy mine.."

This I'd disagree with, because I don't believe the state has any responsibility one way or the other.

Yes, I understand that my argument leads to the conclusion that the constitution, as it stands, doesn't forbid gay marriage.

If the constitution is changed, that's another issue.

But while "my side" would win the argument by amending the constitution, I wonder about what we're giving up to win that point.

I wonder if we're not at a point where we've surrendered our God-given rights and replaced them with State-given rights. I trust God more than I do the State, as you well know.

I understand that much in our laws have grounding in religion. And according to most religions, homosexual activity is immoral. I happen to agree, but JUST AS MUCH - and I want to stress this less you think I'm pontificating - I repeat JUST AS MUCH - I believe that shacking up and premarital sex is immoral. No different. But should the government operate on my Catholicism, or on my neighbor's Unitarianism? Or none at all? I think basically we've operated on a Deistic level, which has seemed to work for 200 years.

The hardest thing, especially in this area, is to avoid pointing out your splinter while ignoring the big friggin log in my eye.

aikane said...

Paul, I think we have reached a practical solution we both can accept: Keep the wall between church and state and strengthen it, rather than tear it down. Yeh!!

You said, "Yes, I understand that my argument leads to the conclusion that the constitution, as it stands, doesn't forbid gay marriage."

I agree.

You said, "If the constitution is changed, that's another issue. But while "my side" would win the argument by amending the constitution....."

You're right, and that's why those who oppose equality are attempting to change it. I disagree, though, that either "side" would win -- because, as you also question, "... I wonder about what we're giving up to win that point."

Too much, in my opinion.

Once the state uses a religious basis, whatever the religion, to deny any minority their rights to equality, every other minority's rights are threatened. Everyone is a member of a minority at some level: Jews, Catholics, Muslims, fundamentalist christians, unmarried mothers, divorced men, stepchildren, people over 80, etc.... :-)

Some religions already bless same-sex unions, yet by changing the Constitution, those religious adherents would be denied the practice of their religious beliefs. That's the slippery slope that leads us to a fundamentalist, non-secular state similar to Iran or Saudi Arabia -- and there go the freedoms and liberties we have fought to win and/or defend since 1776.

Please help me to stop Congress and the states from enacting legislation and Constitutional amendments that give government additional power over families and religious practice. I would be forever grateful, however you arrive at that decision.

Have a great weekend!