The president has said that the Constitution should be amended to deny gay and lesbian Americans the right to marry. We strongly disagree.
The history of this country has been a long journey toward freedom and equality for all. “As the Constitution endures,” wrote Justice Kennedy in Lawrence v. Texas, “persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom.”
At every step in our journey toward freedom, Americans have been forced to question their fundamental beliefs about who is a person, who is entitled to exercise the franchise, and even who shall have the right to marry. Until 1967, the laws of some states prohibited black Americans and white Americans from marrying each other. It took a Supreme Court decision to strike down those unjust laws and to affirm the fundamental right to marry.
Today, across America, a great debate is taking place as to whether gay and lesbian Americans should be denied that right. And sadly, the President of the United States has called on Congress to put a stop to that debate through a constitutional amendment to prohibit the states from allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
The Constitution has been amended to eliminate slavery, to give women the right to vote, and to secure for every person the equal protection of the laws. It has never been amended to mandate discrimination. Nor should it be.
Marital status brings with it hundreds of benefits and protections that gay and lesbian couples are denied. These couples pay higher taxes, are denied family leave, and receive no Social Security survivor benefits when their partner dies. They can be denied the right to visit one another in the hospital and to make medical decisions on each other’s behalf. And their children can be left without legal and financial protections in the event of either parent’s death. States have a responsibility to address these inequities.
While religious denominations must be free to decide what constitutes religious marriage under the tenets of their faith, the states should be free to decide whether to recognize civil marriage for their gay and lesbian citizens. Indeed, we believe that the time has come for them to do so. We should do all we can to strengthen and nurture all of our families as they struggle to overcome the storms and stresses of modern life.