February 24th, 2004

An open letter to my family and friends

Last week I had the amazing privilege of going to city hall in San Francisco. Now I'll grant you, going to city hall isn't usually much of a treat-- it generally means that you'll be spending a lot of time filling out paperwork and standing in line and jumping through bureaucratic hoops for something that probably isn't all that pleasant anyway. There are very few enjoyable things to do that involve big government buildings.

This time, though, was different. My car was loaded to the gills with flowers, and my goal was to give them away. In particular, I wanted to deliver surprise bouquets to strangers who were standing in line outside city hall waiting for a marriage license.

What I saw was amazing. The line stretched out the front door and around the corner of the building, and there were happy couples everywhere. They were men and women, young and old, people of all shapes and colors, and they were all there for the same reason-- to celebrate their love for each other, and for the first time ever to seek legal recognition of their status as couples. Some of them had their children with them, and I nearly cried was when a little boy asked me for a couple of red roses and then solemnly delivered them to his daddies.

The religious right looks at this and sees horror, evil, and the downfall of civilization. I see people who want to be able to file joint tax returns, to be able to visit each other if one of them is in the hospital, to inherit property, be covered under their partner's medical insurance, and any one of over a thousand other rights that are granted with that simple piece of paper. They want to hold hands, look into each others eyes, and say "until death do us part." They want to be treated as equals, not as second-class citizens.

Today the president of our country called for a constitutional amendment that would make this illegal. This would be the first time ever that discrimination would be codified into the constitution of the United States. Our constitution was written by wise men, and contains beautiful and powerful ideas. In particular, the sixteenth amendment:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
As it stands today, one class of people is denied equal protection of the law-- gay and lesbian citizens. It seems to me that the good and noble thing to do would be to remedy this imbalance, but instead lawmakers are working to codify it into the very document that decries its existence.

I know that many people in this country see marriage primarily as a religious institution. While I understand and can sympathize with this position, the reality is very different. Marriage is a legal institution, and conveys many rights that cannot be garnered by any other means.

I don't ask this often, but I'm asking now. Please, contact your lawmakers and let them know that the constitution should protect all citizens equally, and that you do not support codifying discrimination into the defining document for our nation. Do this for me. Do it for all of the couples who just want to settle down quietly behind a white picket fence and live happily ever after.

Patti Beadles
Oakland, California
February 24, 2004