Monday, September 21, 2009

Hawaii (III) Congressman Neil Abercrombie

After a long hiatus, I continue today with Congressman Neil Abercrombie, Democrat, representative of Hawaii's 1st Congressional District:

Dear Congressman Abercrombie,

I write soliciting your support for a Marriage Equality Amendment to the federal constitution that would secure 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." In 2006 you voted against House Joint Resolution 88, which would have amended the U.S. constitution to permanently bar millions of Americans from the marital bond. In doing so, you issued the following statement:

“This ban would be almost unique among constitutional amendments, because it curtails rather than expands individual rights and liberties. The sole exception was the 18th amendment, which brought us the ‘noble experiment’ of prohibition. Prohibition was repealed a short time later, because it proved to be an utter failure both in terms of enforceability and of elevating the nation’s moral tone.

“Marriage and civil unions have always been and rightfully remain the province of individual states. Asserting a Federal power to regulate marriage is only a short step away from claiming Federal authority to govern every other aspect of family life—divorce, child support, inheritance, child rearing, etc.

“The U.S. Constitution is the underlying document which: (1) serves as the basic blueprint for the operation of the Federal government; and (2) defines the balance of powers and rights among the national government, states, and individuals. To drag the Constitution into areas beyond those fundamentals is to trivialize the basic document of our freedom.

“That prospect is why the founders made changing the Constitution much more difficult than passing statutory law. Amendments must pass each house of Congress by a two-thirds margin and be ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states. This is a formidable hurdle, and rightly so. Amending the Constitution because of changes in the political weather endangers the stability of the country and embedded protections for minorities that have served the nation well.”

You are entirely correct in comparing House Joint Resolution 88 to Prohibition, and identifying the inherent failings of such attempts to use the constitution to curtail individual rights. I would point out, however, that the most necessary and successful amendments to our basic law have been those that secure and guarantee individual rights. It is thus not inappropriate to amend the constitution to, borrowing your words, "expand individual rights and liberties" and "protect minorities." Though marriage has been the traditional purview of the states, arbitrary exclusion from the marital bond is such a grievous curtailment of personal liberty that it requires the intervention of federal power to redress. This was the principle underlying the Supreme Court's decision in Loving v. Virginia in 1967, and it is the legal, ethical, and moral imperative underlying the need for a Marriage Equality Amendment today in 2009.

I have set out to write every member of Congress seeking support for this change to our basic law. Perhaps, on reflection, you will see fit to lend this measure your support. In any case I thank you for your attention on this matter and hope this message finds you well.


Andrew Meyer