So goes the nation

I’ve got mixed feelings about what’s going on in California. I feel like what San Francisco has done is going to freak out a lot of people who were previously on the fence about this; make them feel like their votes are going to get overridden (which leaves bad taste in the mouth after the 2000 election). The nation is divided 50/50 on the issue of gay rights; we can’t afford to lose a margin. Gay rights, like women’s rights, has never been a straight line of progress, even in the last century. There have been setbacks. I don’t want this to be one of the setbacks. On the other hand, it can be argued (by Rosa Parks, for one) that things aren’t going to change unless people get off their duffs and change them.

But in the mean time, you guys should check out the Human Rights Campaign’s Million for Marriage Petition which is gathering signatures to prevent Bush’s proposed amendment, and Justly Married, photos and essays in support of the couples tying the knot at San Francisco’s City Hall.

I’m also attaching a letter I wrote to the President back in August:

From : Lisa Feld
Sent : Monday, August 4, 2003 3:08 PM
To : president@whitehouse.gov
Subject : Gay marriage

Mr. President,

While I am sure that your phenomenally packed schedule does not afford you time to read these emails, I believe White House staffers tally up how many letters and emails you get for and against your opinions and decisions.

I know that you are a man of deep religious convictions and that your faith guides you in your work as leader of this country. As an observant Jew, I too believe that the Bible is an excellent guide for the faithful to live meaningful lives and make ethical decisions.

At the same time, America is a country based on a fundamental separation of Church and State, and on the right of every citizen to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And under those guidelines, you as a devout Christian have no more right to make a law forbidding homosexuals to marry than a devout Muslim President would have to make a law putting all women found guilty of “indecency” under house arrest until their deaths (Koran 4:15).

I am giving you the benefit of the doubt here by ascribing your motives to religious conviction rather than homophobia. And I am not basing my arguments on the fact that the portion of the Bible which forbids men from lying with other men as they do with women (i.e. the Old Testament) also repeatedly forbids the cooking of meat and milk together and the eating of shellfish and pork, and repeatedly emphasizes the commandment of ritual circumcision, all rules that early Christians followed until they decided that the ethical message of the New Testament was more important than the specific injunctions of the Old. I’m fairly sure that you agree with them on that point, as I’ve heard nothing about your eschewing lobster, but your private religious practices are not up for debate here. Your public policies are.

I am not a homosexual. The law you are in the process of drafting will not affect my choice to marry, divorce or have children, will not affect my right to be covered under my partner’s insurance or custody of children I helped raise in the event of my widowhood or divorce. But I have friends who would be affected by this law. And I have trouble holding up my head as a citizen of the greatest and most successful democracy in the world when that nation would deny a group of its citizens the basic right to make a loving and monogamous marriage with another consenting adult.

I don’t expect to change your religious convictions, or your belief in what God intended as moral behavior. But as the President of the United States of America, a nation that separates Church and State, you have the uncomfortable duty of drawing a line between your ethics and your morals, and being guided by your more universal ethics rather than the moral laws which stem from your particular religion. It is a duty that you willingly undertook when you were sworn into your office, and I firmly believe that it is a challenge you can rise to.

Yours,

Lisa Feld

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