Today I continue my correspondence with newly elected members of the 111th Congress with Senator Mark Begich, Democrat, the junior senator for Alaska. An email account is not set up for Senator Begich yet, so he must be contacted by post or emailed at his campaign web site:
Dear Senator Begich,
I write as a fellow Democrat to solicit your support for a Marriage Equality Amendment recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry. As mayor of Anchorage, you built a consistent record of respect and support for LGBT rights, supporting such progressive measures as the granting of benefits to same-sex partners. You thus earned the endorsement of advocacy groups such as the Human Rights Campaign, and your election is being celebrated as a step forward for the cause of LGBT rights in Alaska and the nation as a whole.
Building upon that estimable record, I hope that you will be a voice in the Senate in favor of marriage equality. The past eight years has seen a frighteningly regressive trend gain momentum in our national politics. President Bush harnessed all of the prestige and power of his office to an effort to encode the denial of rights into our Constitution, and the past election saw, with the passage of Proposition 8, the heartbreaking withdrawal of recognition that had finally been granted to the rights of millions of Californians after long struggle.
Please allow no one to mislead you on this score, Senator. Marriage to the partner of one's choice is a right, one that millions of same-sex couples already possess even though the vast majority of them do not enjoy its legal benefits. The Government Accountability Office lists 1,138 benefits and protections that flow from marriage under federal law. Denial of those guarantees to citizens because they marry someone of the same gender is as arbitrary as denying them because they marry someone of a different race (a legal prohibition that was quite common until it was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the case of Loving v. Virginia). The current state of our laws and institutions is thus fundamentally unfair, unjust, and discriminatory.
Our laws will only faithfully reflect the basic rights of our citizenry when the Constitution is amended to 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." Would you take up the cause of this reform among your colleagues in the Congress, Senator? Doing so, you would be carrying forward the good work you began as mayor of Anchorage.
Thank you for your attention in this matter. Please accept my congratulations upon your election and my best wishes for success in your new office.