Saturday, April 18, 2009

Delaware (II) Senator Ted Kaufman

Today I continue with Senator Ted Kaufman, Democrat, junior senator from the state of Delaware:

Dear Senator Kaufman,

I write seeking 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 reform is the surest and most durable way to end the discrimination that millions of Americans must currently endure.

Your predecessor and former employer, Vice President Biden, was on record as supporting civil unions for same-sex couples even as he opposed full marriage equality. In an interview on "Meet the Press" in 2007 , when asked if "gay marriage" was inevitable, he responded in these terms:

"Well, I think it probably is because social mores change. But I don’t think the government can dictate the definition of marriage to religious institutions. But government does have an obligation to guarantee that every individual is free of discrimination. And there’s a distinction. I think government should not be able to dictate to religions the definition of marriage, but on a civil side, government has the obligation to strip away every vestige of discrimination as to what individuals are able to do in terms of their personal conduct."

This answer compels one to make two observations. The first is that if you, like Vice-President Biden, feel that the "government does have an obligation to guarantee that every individual is free of discrimination," then the only route to that goal is full, federal marriage equality. Experience demonstrates that the full range of 1,138 benefits and protections which flow to couples from married status under federal law can not be secured to citizens through the establishment of a "second-track" institution like civil unions. A couple that is not deemed married by law does not enjoy all the legal safeguards of marriage, and is therefore discriminated against in myriad ways large and small.

Secondly, Vice-President Biden's concern that "governments should not be able to dictate to religions the definition of marriage" has no bearing on the issue of civil marriage equality. Civil and relgious marriage are separate institutions that circumstantially share a common name. There will never be perfect agreement between what the government deems "marriage" and the doctrinal statutes of any particular religious group. This has not derailed the parallel operation of civil and religious marriage in the past, and will not do so once rights of marriage equality have been fully recognized for all Americans. There are many types of marriage now legal which particular denominations will not sanction, none of which have caused a crisis in church-state relations or an abridgment of religious liberties. For example, every year thousands of interfaith couples are married in ceremonies that many orthodox rabbis refuse to perform, yet none of the synagogues those rabbis serve have suffered political consequences. Moreover, right now same-sex marriages are being sanctified in progressive churches and synagogues across the country despite lacking civil legal status, so that in refusing to recognize marriage equality rights the government is effectively doing precisely what Vice-President Biden wished to avoid.

I have set out to write every member of Congress seeking support for a Marriage Equality Amendment. I hope that you will see the justice of this cause and lend it your support. In any case, I thank you for your attention on this matter and congratulate you on your new office.


Andrew Meyer

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