Sunday, May 8, 2011

A letter on gay marriage

I live in Minnesota, and currently there's an issue being discussed in the legislature about an anti-gay marriage amendment, as I referenced here. Now, while I would honestly prefer if my elected officials were focusing on the budget problems we are currently faced with, I decided I couldn't let this issue pass. I am sending an abbreviated form of the following letter to my state representatives (abbreviated because I needed to keep it to less than a page -- that took some editing, but I succeeded). You may consider the following to be an open letter, applicable to anyone in any legislative body that cares to make similar proposals.

Letter to the Legislature

In regards to the proposal for an anti-gay marriage amendment to Minnesota’s constitution, I would like to come down against such an idea, and against putting the question on the ballot, and urge you to vote against such a process. Many reasons are put forth for people to support such an amendment, and for putting the question on the ballot. Please allow me to address a few of those reasons.
One of the big reasons put forth is the idea that “traditional marriage is between a man and a woman.” While it’s true that marriage in America has always been between a man and a woman as far as the law is concerned, merely being tradition is not a good reason to keep it that way. It was traditional at one time that women didn’t work outside the home, but I’ll hope you agree that changing that tradition has been an overall positive for society. I would argue that denying women the right to work outside the home was in fact unethical, and thus moving past that tradition was good for more reasons than economics. Moving past the tradition that marriage is just between men and women would be an ethical boost for Minnesota and the country, regardless of practical concerns (such as health decisions that may need to be made when one partner cannot speak for themselves).
Another idea that’s been floated is that marriage between members of the same –sex somehow harms or diminishes marriage between members of the opposite sex. How? I’m happily married to a member of the opposite sex, and cannot see any way in which the existence of same-sex relationships and marriage has harmed or diminished my marriage. Unless some pervasive, persistent harm to others can be demonstrated, I do not see any reason for the government to be denying recognition of same-sex marriage.
Now of course, there is a big reason that I haven’t addressed yet: religious objection. If the only, or the major, objection that you or anyone else has to same-sex marriage is a religious one, then I would argue that runs right up against the separation of church and state that has been such a benefit to America, and its goal of equality for all. Some religions and religious people do not object to same-sex marriage, and indeed some endorse it to the same extent they endorse traditional marriage. To codify one religion’s view into law would be to favor that one religion over others, which would be a severe step backward toward the days of state churches. 
I said earlier that I also object to the question being put on the ballot for voters to decide. This, at first glance, seems like an attractive option. We live in a democracy, voting is one of our great rights and privileges. It’s how we choose the people who create our laws and formulate the policies that, when done right, benefit all of us. Unfortunately, sometimes that very system of majority rule can act against us. This is sometimes referred to as the “tyranny of the majority.” There are times when popular opinion and views are not good. For example, if during the days of the civil rights movement for African-Americans and other minorities it had been put to a vote to the public whether equal treatment of all, regardless of race, should be encoded into law, I hesitate to believe the vote would’ve gone in the direction of equality. Discrimination was rampant, and even traditional, and it was for that reason that people needed to march and protest. The law had to be changed so that unethical tradition could be changed. 
It may be that at this time in history a majority do not want same-sex marriage recognized by the law. Many feel it’s immoral, and perhaps you agree. This does not mean that it’s right, or that the government should be involved in legislating morality when there is no evidence of pervasive harm to society. 
In closing, I would just like to point out that this is not a minor issue. Marriage is intricately woven into the fabric of our laws, affecting taxes, health benefits, credit issues, and a variety of other things. I do not recall the exact number, but a study was once done that counted the number of times “marriage” appears in the laws of Minnesota, and the total was in the thousands (if not more). 
I thank you for your time and attention to this matter. If you would like to discuss this further, there are various ways to contact me, which I’ve included below. Thank you again.
(Anyone who wishes to discuss this letter, the issues, or the points I bring up -- or points on the issue I didn't bring up -- may feel free to do so in the comments. I welcome the discussion.) 

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