Monday, January 19, 2009

California (XVI) Congresswoman Anna Eshoo

Today I continue with Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Democrat, representative of California's 14th Congressional District:

Dear Congresswoman Eshoo,

I write you as a concerned citizen to solicit your support for a Marriage Protection Amendment that would recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry throughout the Union. As a member of Congress since 1993 you have been a strong advocate for civil rights, garnering well-earned kudos for your work on behalf of women and veterans. On the issue of marriage equality you have taken a moderate pro-rights stand. Your website posts the following statement:

"Rep. Eshoo believes that issues related to marriage should be handled by the individual states as they have been throughout our nation's history. In the 108th Congress she opposed H. J. Res. 106, the Marriage Protection Amendment, which would have amended the Constitution by taking this decision out of the hands of states and effectively banning same-sex marriage.

Rep. Eshoo also voted against H.R. 3313, the Marriage Protection Act, which would have stripped federal courts (including the Supreme Court) of their jurisdiction to hear cases challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act or the Federal Marriage Statute. Rep. Eshoo believes this bill was discriminatory, singling out for the first time a minority to prevent their interests from being considered by the highest courts in the land. While the bill was passed by the House of Representatives, no further action was taken during the 108th Congress, effectively defeating the bill. No action has been taken in the 109th Congress."

I applaud your work in defense of marriage equality to the extent it has gone, Congresswoman. I hope I may persuade you, however, that the right to marry the partner of one's choice is a basic civil right, as basic as the right to vote or to worship as one's conscience dictates. As such it is not the proper purview of the individual states, but should be federally protected. This was the finding of the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia, which struck down so-called "anti-miscegenation" laws banning marriages between partners of different race. The same principle applies with respects to partners of like gender.

With statutes like DOMA on the books we live in a topsy-turvy world, one in which the federal government has been mobilized to attack what it should protect and states like Massachusetts and Connecticut have risen to defend what should be guaranteed by the federal government. Most recently, with the passage of Proposition 8, we have been dealt an object lesson in the need for robust federal action in defense of marriage equality. When recognition of individual rights can first be granted and then voted away, the founding spirit of our democracy has been violated. Leaving the welfare of American families vulnerable to the whims of the voting public state by state is neither just nor humane nor conducive of the public good.

The Government Accountability Office lists 1,138 legal benefits and protections that flow to citizens as a result of marital status under federal law. That millions of Americans should arbitrarily be excluded from this institution because of the gender of their chosen partners is absurd and unjust. Especially condemnable is the plight of the thousands of children in the care of same-sex couples who are kept from the stable protections and securities that other children enjoy because their parents' marriages are denied legal recognition. To discriminate against the child on account of the parent is sheer barbarism of a kind that the 21st century should have long left behind.

The manifest injustice of our current system will only be reliably redressed when the U.S. 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." I have set out to write every member of Congress pleading their support for this change to our basic law. I hope on reflection you will see the wisdom and justice of such a reform and lend it your voice and your energy in the Congress. Such endeavors would be a fitting continuation of the good work you have done on behalf of those in need since first taking up your office.

I thank you for your attention on this matter. Please accept my best wishes for the success of the 111th Congress.


Andrew Meyer

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