I plan to conduct this run through Congress state-by-state, alphabetically. Today begins with Alabama. The following letter is to Senator Richard Shelby (110 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-5744), Republican, the senior Senator from Alabama:
Dear Senator Shelby,
As a fellow American I write to urge you to reconsider your position on the issue of same-sex marriage. As a cosponsor of the so-called "Federal Marriage Amendment," you have been one of the most vocal opponents of the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States Senate. In your statement to the Senate of June 7, 2006, you express shock that defenders of same-sex marriage rights are "redefining a fundamental institution of our society." Yet the institution of marriage has been redefined by and in our Republic since the beginning of our ongoing American Revolution. There was a time in world history, for example, when most marriages could be joined despite the unwillingness of one or both spouses to enter the marital bond. You declare in your Senate statement:
If you had told me 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago that I would be standing before the United States Senate advocating a Constitutional Amendment that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman I would have thought you had lost your mind. Why in the world would you ever need to do that – doesn’t it go without saying that men and women get married?
But would not the same be true if you had told someone in Alabama fifty years ago that it would someday be illegal to ban the marriage of a black woman to a white man? Yet Loving v. Virginia would have been less than ten years away, in 1967.
Marriage is not only a fundamental social institution, it is one of the principal means we may exercise as individuals to define our place in the community and the world at large. Our spouse is the one kinship relation that we may freely choose, and forming that bond is among the most important and powerful steps we may take in establishing ourselves as social beings. As such, marriage to the partner of one's choice is an inalienable civil right, one that can not be denied to any citizen, even by a vote of the majority. You cite the words of Abraham Lincoln naming ours a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people." But Lincoln also said, of the Founders' articulation of humanity's equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness:
They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.
We live today through one more phase of the "spreading and deepening" influence of the Founders' seminal vision. Same-sex marriage preserves the same values of love, fidelity, devotion, and care that have been the positive moral core of marriage throughout human history. If Lincoln were alive today and could witness all that transpires in our society, I believe he would earnestly approve these words of Mildred Loving:
Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry.
Though I disagree with many of your policies and opinions, I sincerely admire your long record of public service to our country. I appeal to your proven sense of decency and patriotism to rethink your stance on this issue, and to give your support to a constitutional amendment in defense of the rights of same sex couples to marry. Such a "Marriage Equality Amendment" would read, "The right to marry shall not be abridged or denied by the United States or any state on account of sex or sexual orientation." You may disagree with the principles underlying such a change to our basic law, but please know that millions of Americans believe these rights to be inviolable and that they must be protected for all citizens throughout our Union.
I thank you for your attention, I hope this letter finds you well.