Friday, April 17, 2009

Delaware (I) Senator Thomas Carper

Today I begin my correspondence with Delaware's Congressional delegation with Senator Thomas Carper, Democrat, senior senator from that state:

Dear Senator Carper,

I write as a concerned citizen to urge you to reconsider your views on marriage equality. Though your record shows you sympathetic to the rights of LGBT citizens (you have received consistent positive ratings from the Human Rights Campaign for the past three congresses), you have taken a deeply ambivalent stance on the issue of marriage equality. In voting against the so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment" that would have effected a national ban on same-sex marriage, you issued the following statement:

"I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. When I was governor of Delaware, I signed legislation defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Forty-four other states besides Delaware have similar laws. When President Clinton was in office, he also signed a law that would prohibit states from having to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

"Those laws are working. No state has been forced to recognize gay marriages performed in Massachusetts or gay civil unions performed in other states. As such, I’m not convinced that we need to take the extraordinary step of amending the Constitution to define marriage. Since the Bill of Rights was approved in 1791, more than 10,000 Constitutional amendments have been considered, but only 17 have been approved. Amending that sacred document is something we should do only when it's absolutely necessary and when the need is absolutely clear. For the past 200 years, states have controlled and granted marriage rights. States have been the ones to determine who can marry and at what age, as well as the rules of divorce, alimony and child support. This amendment, however, would usurp that tradition. We should stick with what has worked and let states continue to define marriage as they see fit."

There are several logical problems posed by the views you expressed here, Senator. You profess to believe that "marriage is between a man and a woman," and in this view you are certainly not alone. To my mind this view is misguided, but the question of which of us is right is not really germane to the issue as a matter of state. What you must ask yourself as a legislator is whether your beliefs may serve as a fair and just basis for the law, and to this question the answer is emphatically "no." Can it possibly be fair that two consenting adults who profess to love, honor, and respect one-another be denied 1,138 legal protections and benefits simply to accommodate your beliefs? Surely not.

This is why, contrary to what you claim in the above statement, it has not been true that "states have controlled and granted marriage rights" for the past 200 years. If that were so, in 1968 it would still have been a crime for two people deemed to be of different race to marry in much of the country, among which would have been included the parents of our current President, Barack Obama. In 1967 the Supreme Court struck down so-called "anti-miscegenation" laws on the principle that marriage to the consenting partner of one's choice is an inalienable right and should be federally protected. On that same principle marriage equality must be expanded to include same-sex couples today.

Though there is already constitutional basis for the establishment of national marriage equality in the 14th Amendment's promise of "equal protection of the law," widespread prejudice has blocked millions of Americans from the enjoyment of their natural rights. For this reason I and others propose that the federal constitution be 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 seeking support for this change to our basic law. I hope that on reflection you will see the justice of this reform and lend it your support. In any case I thank you for your attention on this matter and extend my best wishes.


Andrew Meyer

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