Friday, March 20, 2009

Colorado (I) Senator Mark Udall

Today I begin my correspondence with Colorado's Congressional delegation with Senator Mark Udall, senior senator of that state:

Dear Senator Udall,

I write to solicit your support for a Marriage Equality Amendment to the United States constitution that would legalize same-sex marriage throughout the Union. As a member of the House of Representatives you established a long record of support for the rights of LGBT citizens, and spoke candidly of this stance during the campaign for your current Senate seat last year. Your campaign web site included the following position statement:

"At Colorado Outward Bound, I insisted on outreach to include the GLBT community. I have always opposed discrimination based on sexual orientation, and I have been proud that key members of my staff have included GLBT Americans. I support the establishmen of civil unions and domestic partnership legislation to ensure that the rights of all couples - including inheritance decisions and hospital visitation rights - are protected, regardless of sexual orientation. I have consistently opposed efforts to amend the US Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Our Constitution is a solemn compact that is the foundation for the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans, and historically has been amended to expand rights, not restrict them. I do not think our Constitution should be used to discriminate against any American, including gay and lesbian Americans. The issue of marriage has always been left to the authority of the states, rather than the federal government, and it should stay that way. "

Your open opposition to discrimination is progressive and commendable, Senator, but you stop short of advocacy of full marriage equality. Though compromise solutions like civil unions and domestic partnerships may be well intentioned, long experience shows that separate is never equal. Such unions do not afford couples all of the 1,138 benefits and protections that flow from marriage under federal law, nor are they universally portable and legally recognized in the manner of marriage, effectively relegating same-sex couples to second-class citizenship. Moreover the institution of marriage itself is ill served through being diluted by the confused patchwork of conflicting and incoherent legal arrangements created by the states operating individually.

The issue of marriage has not always been left entirely to the states, nor should it be. In 1967 the Supreme Court ruled, in Loving v. Virginia, that marriage to the partner of one's choice was such a basic human right that two people could not be denied recognition of such a bond due to race, thus striking down so-called "anti-miscegenation" laws in 17 states. The same principle of marriage equality that underpinned the rights of the Lovings remains true in the case of same-sex couples today. The issue does not stop at concern for the couples themselves, moreover, but extends to the thousands of children in the care of same-sex guardians. Those children are denied the basic security that the children of heterosexual guardians may take for granted, effectively punishing the child for the lifestyle choices of the parents.

You are right that the Constitution has historically been amended to expand rights, and the time has come for another such expansion. 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." Such a reform is the surest and most durable way to end the injustices that daily arise from our current system of marital apartheid.

I have set out to write every member of Congress seeking support for this amendment. I hope that you will see the justness and urgency of this cause and lend it your proven integrity and sense of civic duty. In any case I thank you for your attention on this matter and extend my best wishes for success in your new office.


Andrew Meyer

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