Thursday, December 15, 2011

Open Letter to Mitt Romney and other gay-marriage opponents

To give credit where it’s due, I’ll admit you’ve got nerve telling a gay Vietnam veteran that you don’t believe his spouse deserves the same rights that people like me, as the wife of a straight Nam vet, enjoy. Not for a minute do I believe you didn’t suspect that man’s sexual orientation. In fact, you admitted you knew where he stood when you said, “So we apparently disagree on that.”

The real problem is the reason you gave for being on that side of the issue. You said, “At the time the Constitution was written, it was pretty clear that marriage was between a man and a woman, and I don’t believe the Supreme Court has changed that.”

Does that mean you’d consider slavery to be just fine until Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation? Or would you have waited for the Supreme Court to declare its support of that courageous presidential action before you freed any of the slaves you’d insist upon keeping hostage?

Would you have campaigned against suffragists like my grandmother until the highest court in the land finally did the right thing and acknowledged the right to vote for my grandmother and her sisters, daughter, and granddaughters--and I must add, your wife?

Doing the right thing shouldn’t depend upon immoral and unfair laws. Granted, the First Amendment of that Constitution you mentioned states: “Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise [of religion] . . . ” That means you have the right to belong to a religion that bans same-sex marriage, and even relationships, within its membership.

On the other hand, the first provision of the religious freedom clause bans you and your religious organization from imposing those rules on others: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, . . . “

A little historical perspective is needed here: For years before the writing of the U.S. Constitution, the Church of England was not only ascendant but the law of the land, including all the British colonies. At times, all tax-paying British citizens and colonists were forced to pay tax monies that went directly into Church coffers, whether or not they were members of that religion.

Most of the Founding Fathers were active members of some Christian religion, but not all of them belonged to the Church of England. Many of the early opponents of Anglicanism had emigrated from Europe to the American colonies seeking freedom to worship as they chose.

Unfortunately, too many of those same freedom-seeking pilgrims eventually imposed their own beliefs on everyone who lived in or near the communities they established. The wise men who wrote and signed the Constitution that defined their new country acknowledged those early colonial mistakes by forbidding any religious institution from forcing rules on people who chose not be members of their organization.

Sadly, it’s taken over 200 years for most people to understand these simple principles. Too many people, like you, still don’t get that. Imposing rules allows powerful people to control others. If we truly love freedom, then religious freedom must include respecting the basic human rights of members of the LGBT community, as well as those of members of every other minority.

Acknowledging the rights of every human being means giving up a little bit of power, but it would offer more freedom to everyone. Being a bully wastes a lot of energy. I urge you to stop bullying people by using bad laws to impose your rules on other people and you will see this nation thrive in ways you never imagined.

I realize you’re campaigning to become the candidate of a political party that’s taken a clear stand against acknowledging the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens. Therefore, I have no doubt who I’ll be voting for in November 2012.

On the other hand, it would be a welcome miracle if, should you win the keys to the White House next year, you followed the example of the first Republican president and declared your support for an issue that is even more popular today than ending slavery was in 1862.

Presidents don’t have to wait for the Supreme Court. They can use the power of their office by supporting the legal right of same-sex couples to marry and receive full federal spousal benefits. That is the right thing to do.

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