Monday, January 5, 2009

California (IX) Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Today I continue with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, representative of California's 8th Congressional District:

Dear Speaker Pelosi:

I write you as a fellow American to plead your support for a Marriage Equality Amendment recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry throughout the Union. Like many others of like mind, I was elated by your election to the Speaker's chair in 2007. Not only was it a landmark moment in the history of our Republic, but it saw that office come under the stewardship of a humane, erudite, dedicated, and dynamic leader of a kind that our nation rarely has the good fortune to produce. I appeal to you now to marshal those proven powers of leadership for the cause of marriage equality.

On July 18, 2006, prior to your election as Speaker, you rose on the floor of the House and spoke eloquently and movingly against the proposed so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment," saying:

“As we consider this amendment, we must understand we are talking about our fellow citizens—people under the law—who are lesbian and gay, and what it means to them. They are members of our communities with dreams and aspirations, including their right to find comfort, love, and support on equal terms. They have every right—and every expectation as any American—that they are entitled to the very purpose for which this nation was founded: that we are all created equal by our Creator and endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

“Let me tell you about two extraordinary constituents of mine. I have talked about them on the floor before—Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin—both in their 80s, who have lived together for more than 50 years. They’re grandparents by the way—they’re grandmothers. Their commitment, their love, and their happiness are a source of strength to all who know them. They are leaders in our community and are held in high esteem by all who know them. Why should they not have the full protection of the law? To be able to share each other's health and bereavement benefits? To be able to share all the protections and rights accruing to financial relationships, inheritance, and immigration? Why should Phyllis and Del and millions of gay and lesbian citizens not be treated equally and not be afforded the legal protections conferred by marriage?"

The cause of marriage equality could not find a more articulate champion than the one exemplified by these words, Madame Speaker. If we think of all Americans, as you exhort us to do, as "people under law," then we must acknowledge that, even absent the misnamed "Marriage Protection Amendment," the current state of our laws is unjust and cruelly discriminatory. You are undeniably right that citizens like Phyllis and Del should (nay, must) be afforded the legal protections conferred by marriage. In fact, there is no argument that can be made to deny that such equitable treatment under the law is theirs by, to borrow the phrase you invoked, "inalienable right." Yet our current institutions perpetuate an arbitrary and malignant double standard, excluding citizens like Phyllis and Del from basic safeguards to welfare and happiness that the majority may take entirely for granted, creating an entire populace of second-class citizens.

Indeed, the situation is even worse than that. With the passage of Proposition 8 in California, Phyllis and Del have seen rights stripped from them that were briefly recognized by the wise ruling of California's Supreme Court last year. Thus not only do we have a system of marital apartheid in this country, but forces are mobilized to see that it persists and even (with campaigns like that for the so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment") intensifies.

Urgent action is needed. The rights of American citizens will never be fully recognized or protected until the Federal 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 lend your considerable authority to the struggle for such an amendment, Madame Speaker? I have set out to write an email to every member of Congress (at the rate of about one a day) seeking support for this change to our basic law. My messages are being collected at a weblog, "Marriage Equality Amendment":

I know that the campaign for such a change would be long, difficult, and fraught with political risk. Some might argue that our nation faces more pressing issues at the current moment. I would venture to guess that most of those who would make such arguments are not prevented by law from marrying the persons they love. Moreover, a moment of crisis is also a moment of opportunity for bold change. As your ascent to the Speaker's chair and the most recent presidential election have demonstrated, no one can be sure what change the nation is ready for until someone tries to lead it there.

I trust you to give this issue due consideration, and to act in any case with the same conscientious integrity you have displayed throughout your career. Thank you for your long service to our nation and for your attention on this matter. I hope this message finds you well. Please accept my best wishes for the new year and for the success of the 111th Congress.


Andrew Meyer

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