Monday, November 6, 2006

Vote NO On the Marriage Amendment

Several states will go to the polls tomorrow to vote on marriage amendments that would put a precise definition of marriage in their state constitutions that would spell out that marriage is between one man and one woman only, and that all other marriage forms can not legally exist.

What follows is a letter to voters in all such states, urging them to vote NO on their state's marriage amendment.

I'm heterosexual and I'm voting NO on the marriage amendment.

Many of those who intend to vote yes on this amendment cite the Bible as the reason why they oppose same-sex marriage. While it is all well and good to live out one's faith in one's own life and to tell others about it, I see several problems with this view.

For one thing, America is not a theocracy. Our laws are based on the Constitution, not the Bible The first amendment gives us the right to freely practice whatever religion we choose or no religion, but we don't have the right to legally impose our religious beliefs on others.

Secondly, marriage has traditionally been understood to have two parts: there is civil/legal marriage regulated by the state, and there is the religious component in which the government plays no part. Advocates of same-sex marriage are working to change only the legal aspect of marriage -- making same-sex marriage legal would in no way affect the religious aspect. Because our nation enjoys the separation of church and state, churches are free to either offer or deny wedding ceremonies to same-sex couples, as they've been doing all along, based on their own beliefs.

Others have said they will vote yes on the marriage amendment because they believe that marriage should be about procreation. Older heterosexuals past reproductive age, those who are disabled or sterile, and those who just don't want kids are not banned from getting married, so this argument simply doesn't wash. Heterosexuals have always had the freedom to enter into marriage for whatever private reasons they have.

Some people believe that heterosexual marriage needs "protection"; that allowing same-sex marriage will threaten the institute of marriage. This reason has always left me scratching my head in confusion. Exactly, how, does discriminating against same-sex couples help heterosexuals strengthen their own marriages? Same-sex marriage is currently illegal, yet heterosexuals nevertheless are divorcing in record numbers. It would seem to me that strenthening marriage is something each couple needs to take responsibility for on their own. Gay people getting married will neither help nor hinder heterosexual marriage.

And there are some who sit on the fence and say that they would not be against "civil unions" for same sex-couples, but they don't want such relationships to be legally labeled as "marriage". This recognizes the dual legal/religious aspects of marriage, but to be fair, this term would have to be used for all civil marriages, gay and straight, with the word "marriage" reserved for the religious ceremony. Otherwise, it's "separate but equal" all over again.

The issue of same-sex marriage is, at base, about the legal benefits that come with marriage. Legal marriage gives at least 150-to-350 legal benefits in every U.S. state. Connecticut has 588 laws that come with legal marriage. And on the Federal level, there are more than 1,138 such laws. Some of these benefits are:

# Automatic Assumption of Spouse’s Pension
# Automatic Inheritance
# Automatic Housing Lease Transfer
# Bereavement Leave (offered by some employers)
# Burial Determination
# Child Custody
# Crime Victim’s Recovery Benefits
# Domestic Violence Protection (most cities won’t cover same-sex abuse)
# Exemption from Property Tax on Partner’s Death
# Immigration access for the foreign spouse of a U.S. citizen
# Immunity from Testifying Against Spouse
# Insurance Breaks (apartment, car)
# Joint Adoption and Foster Care
# Joint Parenting (insurance coverage, school records)
# Medical Decisions on Behalf of Partner
# Reduced Rate Memberships
# Sick Leave to Care for Partner (varies by employer)
# Visitation of Partner in Hospital or Prison
# Wrongful Death (loss of consort) Benefits

I don't believe it is my business to meddle in the private relationships of others who do not affect my rights to do differently, so I'm voting NO and I urge others to do the same.

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