cutting through

In my inbox today I had the following email from Senator Mark Dayton, a Minnesota Democrat. I had written to him to thank him for opposing the constitutional amendment which would have outlawed gay marriage. I hope it’s OK to post his message in full – I looked for his floor statement on his own site but it wasn’t there yet. So please read the whole thing. I’m reeling from the fact that a politician can actually speak sense and humility.

July 21, 2004

Dear Mr. Mogendorff:

Thank you for contacting me about the proposed Constitutional amendment on marriage. I did not support the amendment, because I believe that marriage is “an institution created by God,” and, thus, should be under the authority of religion.

I am attaching a copy of the remarks I made during the Senate’s recent debate on the amendment. I spent a long time in preparation for it, including rereading The Bible’s New Testament and reading the “Defense of Marriage Act.” That federal law, which was enacted in 1996, defines marriage in the United States as only between one man and one woman, and also says that no state need recognize a same-sex marriage performed elsewhere. Thus, it has already provided marriage in the United States

with the definition and protection which the amendment’s supporters want.

Please contact me again regarding this or any other matter.

My best regards.


Mark Dayton

United States Senator


Floor Statement of Senator Dayton on the Federal Marriage

Constitutional Amendment

July 13, 2004

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness . . . .”

With those immortal words 228 years ago, the signers of the Declaration of Independence set forth the founding principles of this country. They chose the word unalienable to mean that those rights were God-given. They were rights with which every person was born, not to depend upon the attitudes or ideologies of any government.

11 years later, after winning their War of Independence, after trying one unsatisfactory design of government, after many discussions, debates, arguments, and compromises, others signed their names to our United States Constitution. It was a remarkably farsighted document, deserving of the word visionary. It was intended to define, provide, and protect the rights of American citizens and the structure of their democratic government.

Unfortunately, their founding principles and idealism had some glaring deficiencies. When they said all men were created equal they meant only men, and only white men. It took 130 more years before those Constitutional rights were extended fully and equally to all citizens – to African-Americans, to women, and to everyone else. Those Constitutional amendments signaled only the starting points, not the finish lines, to

full opportunities, equal protections, and freedom from discrimination, harassment, and assault. Those paths were difficult, often dangerous, and sometimes even fatal for their travelers. Slowly, too slowly, unevenly, yet inexorably, this country has progressed toward the realization of those God-given rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, for every American citizen.

The life that God gives each of us, the liberty to be as God made us, and the right to pursue our individual needs, goals, and fulfillments – whatever necessary ingredients of our happiness. We receive no assurances of happiness, but the promise we have the God-given right to pursue it. Today, we are a nation of 293 million citizens. That is a lot of very different people pursuing a lot of very different forms of happiness. It is an enormous and continuous challenge for government to permit life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness and to decide where limits must be


The Constitution requires, however, that those limits must apply fairly and justly – and that those liberties can only be taken away for a compelling reason, and through a due process.

People’s differences are no longer legitimate reasons. Not different colors of skin, different religious beliefs, different genders, nationalities, or physical characteristics. People don’t have to like other people’s differences; but they must allow and tolerate them.

Allowing and tolerating differences are what separate democracies from dictatorships. Even dictatorships allow behaviors and beliefs which conform to their ideas and ideologies. However, they will not permit or tolerate behaviors and beliefs which differ from theirs. Those groups of people are persecuted, punished, and even murdered for their differences.

It is sometimes difficult for those of us who live in democracies to allow other beliefs and behaviors, which we dislike or disapprove of. It is especially difficult if those other beliefs or behaviors differ from our own moral or religious views. Although our Constitution separates “church and state,” we do not willingly give up or even compromise our strongly held beliefs based upon our religious teachings or moral values.

Many Americans, who oppose gay and lesbian relationships or marriages, believe they are called to do so by God, by Jesus Christ, by the Bible, or by another religion’s instructions. Recently, I reread the Bible’s New Testament, which provides the foundation and instruction for my Christian faith. I bring the Bible into this debate, because I often hear people, who denounce homosexuality, claiming that “the Bible” or “the New Testament” supports their views.

However, in the entire New Testament, there is only one reference to same-sex relationships, in Chapter Two of Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Jesus Christ does not mention them even once in any of the four Gospels.

Instead, His overriding instruction was to love thy neighbor as thyself. That was his Second Great Commandment, which superseded all the rest.

Jesus also warned several times to beware of false prophets. How could they be identified? He said that they spread hate, instead of love.

I do not understand how some religions developed their strong prejudices against gays and lesbians – prejudices which are not only unsupported by Jesus’ teachings in the Bible, but which even violate his instructions to love one another, as I have loved you. To judge not, lest ye be judged. To spread love, not hatred.

Yet, the discrimination against gays and lesbians in this country has been filled with judgment and hatred.

Thousands of American citizens have been fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, harassed, threatened, assaulted, even murdered, because of their sexual orientations. Some other Americans have spread this hatred and caused that harm, while professing their own religious piety and moral superiority.

Who has the authority to dispute that every human being is God’s intentional creation?

That we are different, because God made us different. Not superior, not inferior, just different?

Equal in the sight of God. Equal in the United States Constitution.

There is a better way to resolve this widespread concern about the effects of a couple state court decisions on marriage.

Decisions which are being resolved by the legislatures and the people of the states.

And which, contrary to the “marriage is under terrorist attack” hysteria, which some politicians are prompting, do not threaten either the federal law or other states’ laws against same-sex marriages.

As others have noted, a 1996 federal law, called the Defense of Marriage Act, already does what the proponents of this Constitutional amendment want to do. The Defense of Marriage Act was passed “to define and protect the institution of marriage.” That law states, “in determining the meaning of any act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”

The law goes on to say that no state shall be required to recognize a same-sex relationship treated as a marriage anywhere else.

That’s the law of the United States of America. Unchallenged federal law. How much more “protection” could the institution of marriage need from the United States Congress?


The proposed Constitutional amendment adds not one whit of additional legal protection to what this federal law already provides.

So why are we being subjected to this charade of politicians’ piety?

An oxymoron, if there ever was one!

It’s an election year! A Presidential election year!

It’s no coincidence that the Defense of Marriage Law was passed in 1996 ? another Presidential election year.

One can only wonder how marriage managed to make it through the 2000 Presidential election without something being done to it.

That’s what is really going on here. This political ploy isn’t about “saving marriage.” It’s about “saving politicians’ jobs.”

Thank goodness we have Senator So-and-So to save us from the heathen hordes.

Thank goodness we have the President saving us, too.

We may not have jobs. Or health care. We can’t afford prescription drugs or gasoline.

They’re bankrupting the federal government with deficits.

They’re destroying our credibility throughout the world.

They’ve made a mess of Iraq. They can’t find weapons of mass destruction; or Osama bin Laden; or whoever shut down Congress with anthrax or ricin.

But they’re defending marriage. Again. And again and again and again.

Let re-elect them!

It’s a tragic day in America when politicians would exploit the Constitution to get themselves elected.

It’s a tragic day for millions of Americans who are being exploited by those politicians. This is a hurtful, harmful, hateful debate for America. One that will only get uglier, meaner, more divisive, and more dangerous, if it moves on to state legislatures, as the Constitutional amendment process requires.

That is why it must be stopped here and now.

That is why I will vote against this Constitutional amendment.

If my colleagues really do want to save marriage – for now and for posterity – let us turn it over to the authority of established religions.

In many wedding services which I attend, marriage is described as “an institution created by God.” Many conclude with, “Whom God has joined together, let no one cast asunder.”

If marriage belongs to God – as I believe it does – then, by our separation of church and state, government should not interfere with its administration by the properly chosen religious authorities.

Instead, government should adopt a different term to use for the legal rights and responsibilities under a civil contract, which, I believe, any two adults should be equally able to enter into.

Giving marriage back to the churches, synagogues, mosques, and separating it from government, and away from the connivings of Congress, is marriage’s salvation and society’s solution.

Let us direct our efforts to protecting America from Al Qaeda.

Leave the Constitution alone, and leave marriage to God.

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