12 June 2009

Letter to the President

Mr. President,

Words can't adequately convey how disappointed I am by your decision to have the Justice Department file a brief opposing a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Amendment. Despite your stated opposition to DOMA during the campaign, it seems that you now feel that denying same-sex couples the same benefits as heterosexual couples is a legitimate means of "preserving scarce government resources".

In other words, equality is too expensive.

I have been with my partner for over six years. I am fortunate that my employer counts her as a "spousal equivalent" for the purposes of health insurance; however, unlike my straight married co-workers, the IRS considers this to be a taxable "fringe benefit". I also know that should my partner outlive me, she will not be eligible to receive my Social Security benefits; the same benefits that I've worked for all my life, just like any heterosexual person, would be denied to my spouse solely because we are both female.

How is it fair that I should be treated differently from any other taxpaying citizen based on my sexual orientation? How is this anything other than gross discrimination? Why is it acceptable to the U.S. Government to define my relationship as “less-than” because of my gender and my partner’s gender?

I was excited about your election. I honestly never thought that a family that looks like my family would ever be the First Family of the United States. I was also pleased that during the campaign, that you said you would be a "fierce advocate" for LGBT equality. However, since taking office, you have repeatedly and clearly sent the message that I am still a second-class citizen in the country of my birth, this time because of who I love rather than the color of my skin.

Fifty years ago, had either my partner or I of been male, we would still have been denied the right to have our marriage legally recognized in many states because I am black and she is white. Would the Justice Department have filed a similar brief to argue that interracial marriage should not be recognized by the Federal Government? Would you have argued that it’s more important that the government not spend tax money by denying benefits to taxpayers if they happen to fall in love with someone of another race?

If it’s not acceptable to tell me that I can’t marry the person I love because she’s white, why is it not only acceptable but desireable to tell me that I can’t marry the person I love because she’s a woman?

I truly did think better of you, Mr. President. I believed that you meant what you said. How sad to see that your words were empty. It seems that “change” and “hope” are only available for some Americans—not for all.

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