Friday, April 24, 2009

Florida (III) Congressman Jeff Miller

Today I continue with Congressman Jeff Miller, Republican, representative of Florida's 1st Congressional District:

Dear Congressman Miller,

I write to protest your opposition to marriage equality. As a co-sponsor of the so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment," you have been a longtime and active opponent of the rights of same-sex couples. Your website contains the following policy statement:

"I believe that marriage consists of a union of one man and one woman as husband and wife. This amendment is about the institution of marriage and the American values that are represented by the union between a man and woman. Same sex couples don’t have a right to redefine marriage for our entire society...It is time for our country to get back to the morals and values of our forefathers...The marriage of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution, honored in all cultures and by every religious faith. It’s in this institution that children are meant to be nurtured. We know this after thousands of years of human experience.”

There are a number of serious lapses of logic in this declaration. Your appeal to "thousands of years of human experience" is particularly misguided, as over the course of that time marriage has varied dramatically from society to society and from era to era. For much of human history polygamy was the norm in many cultures, and an even more frequent phenomenon was the virtual enslavement of a wife to her husband. The recognition of marriage equality would thus not "redefine" marriage any more radically than has already been the case in American social history. Moreover, marriage between partners of the same sex was far from unknown in world history, and continues to be practiced today as an ancient tradition in some cultures.

As to whether heterosexual marriage embodies traditional "American" values, that is a matter of perspective. Denying women the vote and African-Americans their freedom were once "values" held by many Americans, but surely you would agree that those are "traditions" happily abandoned. Marriage equality, on the other hand, undoubtedly embodies the values of which we as Americans may be most proud. We are a nation founded on the proposition that all people have an inalienable right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." In 1967, in its decision in Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court recognized that the freedom to marry the consenting partner of one's choice was an essential and indispensable precondition of this basic American promise, and must be federally protected. They thus struck down the so-called "anti-miscegenation" laws that banned "interracial" marriage in many states.

What was true in the case of the Lovings is true of same-sex couples today. A couple whose bond is not sanctioned by the state are deprived of 1,138 protections and benefits that would flow to them under federal law. They are thus materially hindered in their enjoyment of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and are relegated to the status of second-class citizens. This is more than a matter of principle, but a cause of personal suffering for millions of Americans on a daily basis. Such a state of apartheid is unworthy of a Republic founded upon our great American values, and must not stand.

Unfortunately many share your prejudices, Congressman, and have been very effective in promoting them in the political arena. For that reason I and others propose that the U.S. 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." Such a reform is the surest and most durable means to securing and protecting the rights of all Americans.

You may disagree with the principles underlying this change, but please understand that millions will fight tirelessly until the practical goal of marriage equality is achieved. Perhaps on reflection you will see the error of your current stance. In any case I thank you for your attention on this matter and hope that this message finds you well.


Andrew Meyer

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