Monday, June 1, 2009

Florida (XXI) Congressman Robert Wexler

Today I continue with Congressman Robert Wexler, Democrat, representative of Florida's 19th Congressional District:

Dear Congressman Wexler,

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 been outspoken in the House in defense of the rights of LGBT Americans, receiving perfect scores from the Human Rights Campaign for each of the last three Congresses, and have joined colleagues in the LGBT Equality Caucus. You have stopped short of declaring yourself in favor of full marriage equality, however. The "issues" section of your web page declares:

"I support civil unions for same-sex couples and believe that a majority of Americans rightfully recognize that same-sex couples who are committed to a lifelong relationship should enjoy all of the civil benefits that come with marriage. The ability to make medical decisions for a incapacitated partner, inherit property without large tax penalties and receive Social Security survivor benefits are a few examples of domestic benefits that every couple joined in a state-sanctioned union should enjoy and are wholly unrelated to religious matters."

You are right that basic fairness cries out against the arbitrary denial of basic protections to same-sex couples. You note, however, that statutes such as DOMA absolve both the federal government and other states from any responsibility to honor marriages and civil unions performed for same-sex couples in the states where they are legal. Though you acknowledge that DOMA is of dubious constitutionality, you stop short of calling for its repeal.

Though yours is a moderate and seemingly reasonable stance, the times call for a more unequivocal position. Experience has shown that separate is never equal, creating a "second track" system for same-sex couples will not secure them enjoyment of "all the civil benefits that come with marriage." DOMA, to seize upon only one example, ensures that they may not enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that their union will be honored in the 49 states of the Union other than that in which it was sanctioned.

On reflection it must be clear that acknowledging the right of citizens' to marry in the abstract is simply not enough. It is cold comfort to know that most Americans feel one should enjoy all the benefits of marriage while one's life waits on hold for our laws to catch up with public sentiment. Moreover, well-funded, well-organized and militant forces have rallied to block or roll back the progress of marriage equality across the nation. How can we be complacent when citizens who once had the right to marry have now seen it stripped away by Proposition 8?

Because the issue has reached such a dire impasse, 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." Your deeds and words demonstrate that you are cognizant of the justness of the principles underlying this reform. If you would lend it your voice in the House the cause of marriage equality would benefit significantly from your credibility and good name.

I have set out to write every member of Congress asking support for this change to our basic law. Perhaps on reflection you will decide to champion it among your colleagues. In any case, I thank you for your attention and hope this message finds you well.


Andrew Meyer

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