It is time again for a letter. This time to the President. Printed on letterhead, signed with ink, and sent via the U.S. Postal Service.
June 15, 2009
Barack H. Obama, President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Recognizing you have a challenging workload, I will get straight to my point. As a gay man and a life-long and active progressive Democrat I could not be more disappointed with you and your administration, nor could I be any more ashamed of the positions you have recently taken.
I voted for you expecting an about face from the medieval policies of the Bush-Cheney Administration on the “unitary executive” and “war powers” theories. I expected new government respect for Constitutional protections concerning privacy and domestic surveillance. I expected a return to accountability for government officials and corporations when they violated the laws of our Country, and I expected your government to respect the right to habeas corpus for the people we imprison. I expected war criminals and those who ordered torture to be called to account. You promised to be a fierce advocate for Gay and Lesbian equal rights, and you and your team has cleared the agenda of any mention of those issues. (DOMA, DADT, ENDA, Hate Crimes)
Not only have you failed to deliver on these promises, you have sought to defend and continue many of the policies of your predecessor. You have provided little in the way of “change I can believe in.”
But I was finally prompted to write you after reviewing the Motion and Brief submitted by W. Scott Simpson, Chief Trial Counsel of your Department of Justice in the case of Smelt and Hammer v. United States.
First is the claim by The White House and DOJ spokespeople that the DOJ is required to defend all laws that are “on the books.” While not entirely true (your oath is defend the Constitution…not specific laws), let’s assume there is a legitimate need for the DOJ to enter this case. That does not mean the Government (my government, the one I help pay for) is required to sink to hateful and demeaning rhetoric, and trot out patently ridiculous arguments. I’m no attorney, but even a layman can determine bigoted and hateful reasoning when it rears its head. If this constitutes “fierce advocacy” for Gay Rights, please just stop.
The claim from line 32 of the brief is the most absurd of all. “DOMA does not discriminate against homosexuals in the provision of federal benefits.” This is a frequent claim made by religious fanatics in respect to all sorts of laws restricting gay rights based on a claim that all these laws, including DOMA, don’t discriminate against gays and lesbians because they are free to marry people of the opposite sex. No “homosexual” is denied marriage so homosexuals qua homosexuals suffer no hardship. Gay man? Marry a woman, says the DOJ. This is the same formulation used to argue for upholding the Texas homosexual-only sodomy law in Lawrence v. Texas: a law banning only gay sex doesn’t discriminate against gays because it equally forbids homosexuals and heterosexuals to have homosexual sex and because it equally allows homosexuals and heterosexuals to have heterosexual sex.
Your DOJ goes on to compare, as the religious right so often does, gay marriages to incest and pedophilia. It is gratuitously insulting to lesbians and gay men, referring (unnecessarily) to same-sex marriage as a “form” of marriage, and arguing (with a straight face, I can only assume) that discrimination against same-sex couples is rational because it saves the federal government money. These arguments go beyond absurd, and merely prove the discriminatory and unfair nature of the law on its face. Really, your administration is determining whether or not to support civil rights based on whether or not those rights might have a financial cost? Seriously?
Your government (because it’s obviously no longer my government) continues to send me a tax bill every year to help pay for the benefits of married people. May I get a free pass from taxes?
Thinking, intelligent people just roll their eyes and laugh at such reasoning. I would laugh too, were this not my life you were talking about in such language. Do you believe that Loving v. Virginia should have been decided differently because it increased the burden on taxpayers to provide benefits to the spouse and family of mixed race couples?
Mr. President, I voted for you with high expectations that your administration would return this country to the principles of fairness, respect, and government of, by and for the people as set forth so eloquently by our founding fathers. The previous administration had created a credible and very real threat to this Republic, and you made a promise during the campaign to restore those founding ideals. During your inauguration, you took a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution. I have to admit that I am, thus far, gravely disappointed in the actions of your administration, and now…I’m just hurt and insulted.
I go about my life trying to earn a living, trying to respect my neighbors, adhering to spiritual and social principles of Methodism, my chosen religion. I work to maintain a home, and help my “significant other” (since I can’t call him my husband lest I offend your Justice Department and place an undue burden on us taxpayers) advance his education.
I expect that same respect from this government, and your administration has failed to provide that basic level of respect. I now ask and expect you to do better.