Monday, May 4, 2009

Florida (VIII) Congressman Cliff Stearns

Today I continue with Congressman Cliff Stearns, Republican, representative of Florida's 6th Congressional District:

Dear Congressman Stearns,

I write in protest of your opposition to marriage equality. In 2006 you voted in favor of the so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment" that would have banned same-sex marriage throughout the United States. In doing so you issued the following statement:

"Marriage, the union of one man and one woman, is imbedded [sic] deeply in our legal, religious, and economic institutions. Marriage is also the central structure supporting the family, which is the building block of our society. Undermining marriage as between one man and one woman weakens the family and our society. This amendment protects states from being forces [sic] to recognize same-sex marriages created by other states...Marriage and family laws should be determined by the people in their states through their legislatures and not by activist judges promoting their political agendas. The voters in twenty states supported amendments to define marriage as being between a man and a woman, and 23 other states have enacted laws to limit marriage to unions between a man and a woman, including Florida. Yet, not in one state has the public voted to permit same-sex unions. This amendment protects the democratic process used by millions of Americans to preserve the traditional definition of marriage."

There are a number of problems with your logic. You never make clear how marriage equality will "undermine" marriage or "weaken" the family. If anything, the family is made weaker by our current situation, in which children in the care of same-sex guardians do not enjoy the same protections and securities that safeguard the wards of heterosexual married couples. Moreover, your amendment would have done more than "protect states from being forced to recognize same-sex marriages created by other states." That bit of theater had supposedly been accomplished by the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act." Your amendment would have banned same-sex marriage altogether, thus contravening the recently expressed democratic will of the voters of Vermont, who instituted statutory marriage equality by a vote of their legislature. Had your amendment been enacted we would now have a constitutional crisis on our hands, as the federal government attempted to restrict rights being recognized by one of the sovereign states.

Your assertion that "marriage and family laws should be determined by the people in their states" has a familiar ring to it. The same type of argument was made in favor of so-called "anti-miscegenation" laws banning "interracial" marriage when those laws were challenged in the 1960's. Such laws were likewise "deeply embedded" in the cultural and religious sensibilities of many communities, and had been democratically enacted in the 16 states that still maintained them when they were overturned by the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia in 1967. From your frame of reference that Court were "activist judges promoting their political agendas," yet few today would deny that they acted rightly.

The same principles that informed the Court's decision in favor of marriage equality in 1967 compel the institution of full marriage equality today. Marriage is the most powerful social act a citizen may undertake, one that entails the receipt of 1,138 legal protections and benefits under federal law. The freedom to marry the consenting partner of one's choice is a thus basic condition of human happiness, and may not be denied to any citizen, even by a vote of the majority.

Unfortunately, misconceptions like yours are widespread and politically influential. Aggressive measures must thus be taken to rescue and protect millions of Americans from discrimination. The surest and most durable means to that end would be to amend the federal constitution 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.

You may not be able to see the justice of a Marriage Equality Amendment, Congressman, but please know that millions of Americans hold these rights to be inviolable and will fight to see them recognized for all citizens. Perhaps someday you will see the error of your current stance and take steps to redeem your place in our nation's history. In any case I thank you for your attention on this matter and hope this message finds you well.


Andrew Meyer

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