I posted the letter below on www.change.gov. If you agree with the sentiments expressed in it, please consider also writing a letter reminding President-elect Obama of his promise to be a President to all Americans, including the LGBT community. The more of us speak up, the better. He won't be able to read every letter, but somewhere someone in his Administration will be keeping count. It would be good if they received a lot of thoughtful mail about this.
December 20, 2008
Dear President-elect Obama,
On your election eve we wept with joy as John McCain conceded and you accepted the presidency. We donated money to your campaign; close friends of ours worked for you; we rose at dawn to be able to vote for you when the polls opened, and we felt as proud of you when you won as if you were a member of our own family.
In fact we do sort of feel as if you are a member of our own family, even though we have never met you personally. Like you and your wife, we appreciate good books, we place a high premium on education (we are both teachers,) and we value equality and diversity. We love the children in our lives fiercely, and we rejoice to see a First Family where the children are being raised with wonderful values and appear so happy and well-adjusted.
Our joy in your victory though was tempered with pain the next morning when we found that Proposition 8, a hateful anti-gay campaign that would deny the dignity of marriage to our gay and lesbian friends, had passed, largely due to out-of-state influence and money. Your choice for a pastor to deliver the invocation at your inaugural, Rick Warren, was one of the people who campaigned heavily for Proposition 8 and was instrumental in its passage. We were as shocked and dismayed to learn you chose him to speak as we would be if an intimate member of our own circle made a racist or homophobic remark.
Do you have gay friends? That is the question that haunts us most deeply. We read in the newspaper about the tight-knit circle of trusted friends and family that have supported you every step of the way on your journey to the White House. This is something else we share—a deep commitment to our friends. Clearly both you and Mrs. Obama have a gift for reaching across all kinds of divides and reaching people human to human—that is one of your best attributes.
But is your warmth and empathy reserved only for heterosexuals, or are you able to also put yourself in the shoes of a gay man or woman who loves their partner as deeply as you love your wife, and who yearns to see that love legally protected and dignified just as your own marriage is?
This question is especially poignant to the two of us as we are planning our own wedding in six months. We are a heterosexual couple so there is no obstacle beyond agreeing upon what kind of cake to serve and refining our vows with the help of our rabbi. Our joy in our own wedding will be dampened though, by the sad thought that our gay friends and relatives are unfairly denied this privilege we enjoy.
Many of these friends have been in their own partnerships longer than we have been in ours, and have been valuable examples to us when we struggle with some of the speed bumps of commitment. Some of them are raising children together, or supporting each other as they care for elderly parents. Some of our gay friends are social workers, some are teachers. There are a few ministers and a couple of rabbis in the group, and also some writers, health professionals, lawyers, therapists, computer programmers, and artists. There's a small business owner (favorite small independent local bookstore,) and a number of people who work at non-profits. All of them want the simple right to have their partnerships treated with the same respect and legal protections as anyone else.
Rather than protecting heterosexual marriage, people like Rick Warren who campaign against gay marriage actually taint the institution for everyone. Is marriage a commitment based on love, loyalty, and commitment? Or is it some kind of biological game of pin the tail on the donkey—assuming the tail is one gender and the donkey another?
We also have to wonder: are you sacrificing the gay community and the rights of LGBT people in order to pacify the Religious Right? Will your own Christian faith blind you to the feelings of the many non-Christian Americans—the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, pagans, atheists, agnostics, Unitarians, and others who have supported you?
We respect the sincerity of your religious beliefs, but we fear that the fragile separation of church and state, which was so blatantly abused by the Bush Administration, may be in jeopardy again under your leadership. It would be a stain on the otherwise shining beacon of your presidency. Please say it isn’t so.
Reassure us that you have the rights of gay Americans (and non-Christian Americans) in your heart as you prepare to take the Inaugural oath in January.
* Include an openly gay person in your inaugural ceremonies to reinforce the message of inclusiveness that your campaign was based upon.
*Get to know some gay people personally and allow yourself the pleasure of a meaningful encounter with their families.
*Share this letter with Pastor Warren, and let him know the pain that Proposition 8 has caused among gay people and their allies in California. Request or demand that he aplogize to the LBGT community for hurtful, divisive, ignorant and inaccurate statements he has made.
We will take a day off of work in order to watch you on January 20th as you swear to protect and uphold the Constitution of the United States. It will be a moment to remember forever. Our hearts will be full of pride in you, and concern for your safety and integrity. Please live up to the vision of inclusiveness that you promoted during your campaign.
With love and respect,