Saturday, May 30, 2009

Florida (XIX) Congressman Kendrick Meek

Today I continue with Congressman Kendrick Meek, Democrat, representative of Florida's 17th Congressional District:

Dear Congressman Meek,

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. You have vigorously opposed measures aimed at stonewalling the advance of marriage equality. In 2004, during debates over the so-called "Marriage Protection Act," you offered the following remarks:

"Mr. Speaker, I rise today to voice strong objections to H.R. 3313, the so-called Marriage Protection Act. This Act prohibits federal courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States, from hearing cases on the constitutionality of provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act, including those relating to same-sex marriage licenses.

“This bill is phony, and it is a sham. The title of the bill itself is false advertising. While claiming to 'protect' marriage, all the bill does is strip federal courts of jurisdiction so that they cannot even consider whether laws on same-sex marriages are consistent with our United States Constitution. For over 200 years, our Constitution has defined our nation and protected our rights. It is a document of empowerment, not limitation. But the Republican leadership wants to put a fence around it and padlock the gate, and they are doing it for purely political purposes....Even for people who, like myself, believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, this measure does nothing to strengthen or protect those bonds....

“Today, the very nature of the typical American family is changing. Just as families headed by only one adult were rare only a few decades ago but are common today, non-traditional couples are now a widespread fact of American society. Nearly 200 Fortune-500 companies and numerous municipalities and organizations have already recognized this fact on their own and provide benefits to same sex couples. In addition, several municipalities have adopted local ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing and employment.

“It is simply unfair to deny law-abiding American citizens the protections of civil law with respect to taxation, inheritance, hospital visits and the like, and it is wrong to shackle the federal courts by preventing them from even considering court cases pertaining to these matters."

Even as you express your reservations about the marriage of same-sex couples, you eloquently exposit the imperative of marriage equality. As you note in closing, the current state of our laws is simply and clearly unfair. Whatever one's personal feelings might be about same-sex love, to deny two consenting adults the equal protection of the law (to be specific, the 1,138 benefits and protections of marital status under federal law) is blatantly discriminatory.

What then, is the remedy? Allowing federal courts to review the constitutionality of ordinances like the so-called "DOMA" is of course important, but not enough. Civil unions are a solution that has been tried but proven inadequate: as the civil rights struggle demonstrated, separate is never equal. In the face of militant agitation for discrimination (such as California's Proposition 8 and your own state's Amendment 2), robust measures are required in order to establish basic equity and fairness into the operation of our laws and institutions.

I and others thus 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." Such a reform is the surest and most durable means to securing recognition of the rights of marriage equality for all Americans. I have set out to write every member of Congress seeking sponsorship of this amendment or one like it in the House and Senate.

Will you consider taking up the cause of this reform, Congressman? Such a step would obviously entail political risks, but would be commensurate with your outspoken defense of basic fairness on the issue of marriage equality. In any case I thank you for your attention on this matter and your conscientious service, and hope this message finds you well.


Andrew Meyer

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