Publicover Letter David Publicover and Betsy Rand: Oppose HB 437 effort to overturn marriage equality law
To the editor:
An open letter to our representatives in the New Hampshire Legislature:
We are writing to urge you to oppose HB 437, the current effort to overturn New Hampshire’s marriage equality law.
Two years ago our state proved itself to be on the right side of history by removing one of the last examples of legalized discrimination. The extension of civil marriage to gay couples was based in large part on the emerging recognition by society that homosexuality is not a moral failing but an innate and unchangeable part of one’s identity.
What are the arguments against gay marriage? They fall into several categories:
• The argument from religion. This is the basis of much (though not all) of the opposition to gay rights in general and gay marriage in particular. However, while some religions oppose gay marriage, others support it. Enacting into law the beliefs of one religious tradition over another is clearly contrary to Article 6 of the Bill of Rights of the New Hampshire Constitution as well as the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. While you may personally oppose gay marriage on religious grounds, as an elected official sworn to uphold the constitution you cannot use this as the basis for civil law.
• The argument from tradition. “Marriage has always been between one man and one woman.” This is itself false – according to the Bible, Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon, and others had multiple wives. However, even if one accepts it as true as a modern tradition, it does not justify why this tradition should be maintained. If upholding tradition were the most important consideration, women would still be considered the property of their husbands and denied the right to vote. When tradition becomes the enemy of emerging concepts of justice, it must evolve.
• The argument from social harm. One often hears that allowing gay marriage will harm children or destroy the institution of marriage. However, proponents of this argument have never been able to present any credible evidence to support this claim. Simply stating it as a fact does not make it so. Where enacted, gay marriage has had no effect on the marriages of heterosexual couples, and children raised by gay parents are just as well-adjusted as those raised by heterosexual parents. I suspect the harm that marriage opponents fear most is that their children will learn that there is nothing wrong with being gay. This fear is based on the outmoded belief that homosexuality is a voluntarily chosen moral failing — a belief that is no longer supported by either scientific knowledge or emerging social understanding.
Once these arguments are set aside, you are left with nothing more than an ancient and deep-seated prejudice (even revulsion) toward homosexuality, which clearly is not a legitimate basis for public policy. As we strive toward greater social justice, it is incumbent upon us to confront and overcome our prejudices.
The march of human progress has been marked by an on-going expansion of our “moral circle” — the group of people who we consider to be morally equivalent to ourselves. From prehistoric times when the moral circle was limited to clan or tribe, through the expansion of the circle to include other classes, cultures, religions and races, every expansion of the circle is something we now celebrate. (Examples include the Magna Carta, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the 14th and 19th amendments to the United States Constitution, and the civil rights laws of the 1960s.) These changes, wrenching though they may be at the time, embody the true meaning and consequences of the iconic phrases “all men are created equal” and “equal protection under the law”. The changes of recent years, extending the moral circle to include gay people, will be equally celebrated and cannot be reversed.
Overturning New Hampshire’s marriage equality law would constitute a shrinking of the moral circle. It would be justifiably condemned by future generations, in the same way we now condemn the Dred Scott decision and Jim Crow laws. Please keep New Hampshire on the right side of history.
David Publicover and Betsy Rand