Today I both close out my correspondence with newly elected legislators whose districts I skipped in the lame duck weeks of the 110th Congress and resume my correspondence with California's Congressional delegation, with a letter to Congressman Tom McClintock, Republican, newly elected representative of California's 4th Congressional District:
Dear Congressman McClintock,
I write you as a concerned citizen to protest your stand on same-sex marriage. Like millions of Americans, I was deeply distressed by the passage of Proposition 8, which threatens to undo the wise and just ruling of California's Supreme Court recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry. You however, offered up these comments regarding the issue during your campaign for election to the House:
"Lincoln asked, 'If you call a tail a leg, how many legs has a dog? The answer is four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one. And calling a homosexual partnership a marriage doesn’t make it one."
The bigotry and insensitivity exemplified by these words is frankly shocking, Congressman, and beneath the dignity of your office. You profane the name of one of our greatest presidents, who always stood against intolerance and discrimination, by harnessing his words to such defamatory ends. I would counter your quote with one from Shakespeare: "That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." A marriage is not realized in the gender of the two people so joined, but in their mutual love, commitment, care, and shared sacrifice. Millions of same-sex couples are thus married whether you call their union a "homosexual partnership" or anything else.
Unlike Shakespeare's "rose," the name "marriage" does have real consequences, however. Refusing to give a rose its true name does not harm the rose, but refusing to give a marriage its true name leaves the people within it vulnerable to abuses and injuries against which most citizens are legally protected. This is the reality that you must confront as a legislator, Congressman. You are honor-bound to assess this issue, not according to what fits your tastes and predispositions, but to what is fair and just under law. The Government Accountability Office lists 1, 138 legal benefits and protections that flow to citizens from the marital bond under federal law. To deny millions of Americans those safeguards on the basis of a homily purloined from Lincoln is worse than absurd, it is immoral.
In closing I offer you another quote from Lincoln, Congressman, this one regarding the Founders' famous dictum regarding 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.
What Lincoln declared about the Founders' vision and its implications for race applies equally to matters of gender and sexual orientation. We are living now through another "spreading and deepening" of the founding mandate of our Republic, one which will ultimately lead to a universal recognition of the right to marry the partner of one's choice. I have been writing every member of Congress, soliciting support for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that 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 reform, Congressman, but please know that millions of Americans hold the rights of marriage equality to be sacred and inalienable, and will not stop struggling until they are recognized for all citizens throughout our Republic.
I wish I could offer my congratulations to you on your election to Congress, but I would have to see some sign of a change of heart before I could do so in good conscience. I hope that you shall reflect on this issue and come to a new understanding in time. In any case, I thank you for your attention on this matter and extend you my best wishes for effective service of your constituents in California's 4th District.