Thursday, April 9, 2009

Connecticut (II) Senator Joseph Lieberman

Today I continue with Senator Joseph Lieberman, the junior senator from Connecticut:

Dear Senator Lieberman,

I write to solicit your support for a Marriage Equality Amendment that would recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry throughout the United States. Such an 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." This change to our basic law is the surest and most durable means to both safeguarding the rights of our citizens and defending the institution of marriage itself.

In the past you have taken a "centrist" position on the issue of marriage equality. On the one-hand you have opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage, on the other you have opposed measures like the so-called "Federal Marriage Amendment" that would have comprehensively denied marriage rights to same-sex couples. In registering your opposition to that amendment, you stated:

"Gay couples exist. They also enjoy the rights promised in the Declaration that are the endowments of our Creator. They are not going away. To say that these couples and their children should be denied any legal protections – or relieved of all legal responsibilities – would be unfair.

I presume that most all of us would agree, for example, that someone should not be excluded from his dying life partner’s hospital room on the ground that their decades-long relationship had no legal status. Probably many of us who have thought about it would not want to see someone who raised her partner’s biological child as her own and provided the family’s principal means of support be able to simply walk away without any financial obligations to the child if the couple ends their relationship.

I do not profess to know now exactly how and in what form these rights and responsibilities should be extended to gay couples. Different States are already providing different answers to those difficult questions. But I do know that this is a discussion and a debate that will and should continue."

The basic principles of fairness you outlined here make the passage of a Marriage Equality Amendment imperative, Senator. Experience shows that creating a "second track" system of civil unions will not guarantee same-sex couples the rights and responsibilities that are inherently their due. Marriage only works to protect couples' ties and obligations to one-another because it is universally recognized as the closest of kinship relationships, one that trumps natal family bonds because it is freely chosen. Unless and until our institutions fully recognize the binding force of the family ties same-sex partners form with one-another their unions will not afford them "equal protection of the law," thus consigning them to second-class citizenship. Such a condition of apartheid rebels against the founding spirit and basic values of our Republic. This was the logic that drove the Vermont legislature to so wisely convert from a system of civil unions to full marriage equality.

Moreover, the current state of our laws does injury to the institution of marriage itself. Historically, marriage has been among the most stable and powerful foundations of our civil society because it was universally portable and binding. The patchwork of conflicting legalities that has emerged as individual states negotiate the question of marriage equality has led to an unprecedented state of affairs. It is now possible for the marital status of a couple to alter by degrees as they travel from state to state. Such a condition was rare even for interracial couples during the days of so-called "anti-miscegenation laws," but is becoming ever more frequent in this new stage of the struggle for marriage equality. Until a uniform national policy is adopted, as was done in the case of Loving v. Virginia, the marital bond will be subjected to progressive fragmentation.

I have set out to write every member of Congress seeking support for a Marriage Equality Amendment. My letters are being collected at a weblog: Your career demonstrates that you are a person of principle, one who will follow his own conscience even against the consensus of his party or the interests of his own political career. I hope that on searching your conscience you will recognize the justness of this cause and lend it your considerable authority. In any case I thank you for your attention on this matter and extend my best wishes.


Andrew Meyer

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