Frist on NPR

I generally am awakened on weekday mornings by the news on NPR. This morning I heard an interview with Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader. By the time the interview was done, I knew that I had to write another letter. I hope others will let Mr. Frist know that his promotion of discrimination is a Bad Thing.

It is mostly a subset of the earlier letters so if you’ve read them then you’ve got the gist of what I said, but I figured I’d go ahead and post it (and any subsequent response).

Mr. Frist,

I heard Juan Williams’ interview you on NPR this morning (November 16, 2004) and when he asked you about the “gay marriage ban” you responded “I suspect we will act to protect marriage as the union between a man and a woman especially if there are activist judges who further challenge it.”

I would like you to consider the meaning behind your words because I believe that you are missing the point of why millions of Americans want the right to marry.

Which is more important? The perceived definition of a word or the rights and families of millions of Americans?

The reason that many gay Americans have resorted to the court system is to gain recognition for a right that is being denied them by the legislatures of many states as well as the federal government. Because of these laws millions of couples are unable to protect their families. When a legislature turns a deaf ear to their pleas what recourse is there other than the legal system? Had the legislature acted to protect them rather than to exclude them then it would not have been necessary to pursue recognition of equal rights in the courts.

Laws such as the so-called Defense of Marriage Act protect nothing. Instead they codify discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans into our laws. The only possible justification for wanting a Constitutional Amendment would be to place this discrimination beyond the reach of the judicial system to rectify. This is a shameful act that does no credit to yourself or the nation.

I’ve used the word “discrimination” and I strongly believe that both the Defense of Marriage Act and the Federal Marriage Amendment are nothing more than blatant discrimination against lesbian and gay Americans. Please consider my arguments.

Since the beginning of human history men and women have been living together as couples. So have men and men as well as women and women. While few churches sanctioned same-sex relationships, they were marriages to those who were committed to them.

In the last century, both the federal government and the states began granting rights to those who were married. There are over a thousand of them. Yet no gay or lesbian couple was able to take advantage of them because neither the states nor the federal government would sanction their marriages. Indeed, in many states, gays and lesbians were actively persecuted and told their very relationships were illegal. Despite that persecution, many couples persisted in long term committed relationships lasting decades. That the state would not call them married does not lessen the fact that they were. They lacked only the marriage license and, sadly, the protections to their families that this license would grant.

Consider that less than 40 years ago, Virginia prohibited interracial marriage. Until 1967 it was law that whites only married whites and blacks only married blacks. Yet interracial couples existed and desired to marry. But, Virginia would not marry them and considered them to be illegal. It took a Supreme Court decision to overturn these laws because no legislature had the courage to do what was obviously the right thing. The parallel to today’s situation is clear. Do you consider this a decision by “activist judges”?

Instead of trying to build a society that discriminates against 10% of its population, I ask you to sponsor legislation that would bring America together. This would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and define civil marriage as the union between two people. It is the right thing to do. Instead of trying to create legislation that says that committed same-sex relationships are not real, let us work to create a society where all Americans can protect their families and live their lives openly without fear.

Marriage is not something that needs protecting. The rights of Americans, however, do. I hope and pray that you will come to see this. I would be happy to meet with you at your convenience to discuss this issue further.

Linda Thomas

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