The Case for a Federal Marriage Amendment
August 5, 2004
By sui generis
I am a red blooded American and a patriot. I was born into an
intelligent, stable, loving, and conservative family. I am a highly
moral person; I speak four languages, have a Master's degree, and
pay my fair share of taxes.
On the Bruce Wayne side, I am superbly fit, can handle nearly any
weapon you put in my hands and can take care of myself in nearly
any conceivable physical situation, although I skip the cape and
funky headgear part and drive a rather ordinary car.
I have a higher than usual net worth, a life-committed relationship,
and am actively engaged in business, government, politics, and my
community. I have traveled the world (yes, and the seven seas),
I give money and time to local and national charities, and I understand
intrinsically what it means to be an American in a nation of individuals,
and what purpose government and law serve in a democracy.
I have strong family values and instincts that include raising
a family in financial security, with love, laughter, fairness, wisdom
and generosity of spirit, and providing the best possible future
for my children and the people who share my life.
And yet here in America there are some people who think that I
am immoral because the person I love is not of the opposite sex,
that I don't deserve to have happiness or the protection of a legally
committed relationship, that I shouldn't be allowed to have children,
that I am a threat to society and to social institutions, and that
by extension I should not have the same inalienable civil rights
that other Americans have: the right to dispose of my real estate
and possessions as I see fit, the right to assign my personal estate,
insurance policies, and hard-earned benefits to benefit my life
partner and children unless they are treated by the law as legal
strangers and penalized accordingly.
Those so-called "family values" consist of denying my family and
children the most basic legal and financial security accorded to
civil marriage. These same people think that non-discrimination
based on sexual orientation is a "gay right," and that those
"rights" are "special interest" rights instead of the rights of
all Americans, whether by birth or by choice.
As a result of that kind of thinking, qualified language translators
today aren't allowed to work for the government and extraordinary
soldiers are dismissed from the armed services and federal security
agencies. People like me aren't allowed to defend our country in
war or in peace, aren't allowed by federal law to obtain federal
secret and top secret clearances required to work for the government,
even in the private sector, and by extension we can be denied employment,
housing, mortgages, insurance and health benefits, and we are denied
the right to honor our families, our partners, and our children
with the legal, financial, and health protections they deserve as
we seek to practice our family values in earnest.
In a country where the federal government and any state can legally
refuse to recognize the legal commitment and covenants of civil
marriage made in another state, such as the right to parent children,
my children can be taken away from me forever at a traffic stop,
and as of last month, I do not have recourse in federal or most
state courts to try to get them back. Virginia is one such state,
and many other states have similar legislation or are in the process
of enacting similar legislation. My fellow Americans can take my
children away from me just because. I can be denied a joint mortgage
in most states for no other reason than an accusation of my sexual
orientation (and so can anyone), and have no recourse in any court,
anywhere, against the major mortgage lenders.
Civil marriage for Americans needs to be protected in the Constitution
of the United States of America for all Americans, but especially
to protect the individual and mutual rights of my life partner and
children to be a family with me. In a democracy, laws exist first
and foremost to protect the rights of individuals. In the opening
words of the Declaration of Independence under which our nation
was founded, we proudly state that: "We hold these truths to be
self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed
by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these
are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".
I want my right to marry under the legal definition of civil marriage
recognized in all the states of America, and I want all of
the attendant rights and benefits that protect my family and assets
legally and financially to be guaranteed at the federal level, and
in all the states of the United States of America. I am a
red blooded American just like you are, no more and no less.
America, I am not waiting for you to "allow" me to marry only if
we "call it something else" and only in certain states. You will
not tell me that I am not American enough to be married to the person
I will be with for the rest of my life, or that my children are
to be raised as second class citizens, or that I somehow deserve
less than any other American merely because the person I love is
not of the opposite sex.
I am a child of this nation and I claim these rights with as much
certitude and force as you claim yours, and if you try to deny me
I will fight for those civil rights, because to do anything less
for my family would not be American.
There are many Americans from all walks of life who agree with
me, and who understand that the very idea of America is at stake
when we start to decide that some Americans are "less equal" than
others. This is indeed a moral argument when that lack of equality
means my children and life partner are treated as legal strangers,
and when they are denied the same basic rights and legal protections
accorded to the children and life partners of "proven" heterosexuals.
A law to deny civil marriage to my family does not protect the
"rights" of any individual, and should not be a law in our democracy,
and especially not deferred to the state level, a level which has
a long and dark track record of consistently failing the tests of
As real Americans, we need to turn Federal Marriage Amendment
legislation and its ilk around and use it to amend the constitution
to protect the rights of all Americans, in all states. This is a
civil rights issue, and a profoundly moral issue, and a family values
issue, and we need to reclaim those terms from ignorant people who
say that the struggle for equal rights is not the same as the struggle
of African Americans fighting for the legalization of interracial
marriage (among many other parallel civil rights issues).
We need to reject the premise of intrinsic "immorality" associated
with same-sex orientation, as easily as we reject that one is moral
merely because they are heterosexual. We need to reject the accusation
of being against the "laws of nature" for no other reason than that
we don't procreate with a member of the opposite sex, when clearly
plenty of heterosexual couples choose not to procreate; and we need
to reject the erroneous and mutable "laws of nature" argument altogether
on its face.
I personally believe that the ideal family should have both a
mother and a father, but I am also equally certain that it is not
the only criteria for a good family, as millions of unwanted and
uncared for American children and children around the world can
tell you personally.
Actually, the ideal family would also have nannies, cooks, chauffeurs,
maids, tutors, mentors, playmates, perfect role models, and the
complete and undivided attention of both parents throughout the
first two decades of their children's lives. However, it is reality
that nearly every family in the world can be categorized as "less
than ideal" in one regard or another, yet many of those families
are nevertheless marvelous, loving and secure homes for the children
who live in them.
My family values are that children should have a home and
loving parents, and not grow up in foster care or an orphanage,
that children should have a future, and that our children should
have the same legal protections and opportunities that the children
of any other American has, as should the person who has committed
his or her life to raising those children with us should have too.
There is an argument that we should allow states to make that
decision as a "foot in the door" approach, but I believe that is
a profound mistake that will effectively "herd" same-sex families
to liberal states and create even more entrenched partisan, social
and cultural divisiveness among Americans living in conservative
It splits and wastes our community resources (on both sides) in
inconsistent local legal battles and it creates hiding places for
the morally absurd one-issue anti-gay legislators who fifty years
ago were anti-Jew and forty years ago were anti-"Negro" and thirty
years ago were anti-hippie, and twenty years ago were anti-gay and
anti-immigrant and still are all of those things today, and
who make entire political careers of being xenophobic hate-mongering
zealots rather than true American leaders on true moral issues.
I am a red blooded American, and a patriot; no more and no less
than any other person fortunate enough to be born American and to
cherish the American dream, to dream the dream of a future big enough
for all of us, and certainly big enough for our loved ones and families.
And as an American it is in my blood and heritage that these inalienable
rights are mine too, no more and no less than yours.
I claim them for myself, for my family and loved ones, for the
futures of my children and their children, and for every other American
who believes in a real America, in civil rights, in commitment and
family values and equality for all Americans, because that is what
it means to be American.