To the editor:
Here is a short story. It is about a father, a mother and their five children.
From the kids’ perspective, their lives are boringly small-town ordinary. They have loving parents and grandparents and a wide circle of aunts and uncles, cousins and friends. They all go off to college, each succeeding in their individual ways. It turns out that the youngest son is gay. He comes out to his family members in different ways and at different times. The oldest son, being the most naïve and first to leave home, is the last to know. Years pass, and the gay brother has now been in a committed relationship for 39 years. Having spent his professional life teaching and mentoring at a major university, he is honored, respected and loved by his students, colleagues, and every generation of his large family. Some version of this story could very well be the history of your family.
While less than 5 percent of Americans identify themselves as gay, one of them is almost certainly a friend or family member of yours. I know that many gay people have figured prominently in my life. So, I am writing to urge you to vote to approve Referendum 74, the statute passed by our legislature earlier this year that permits a couple to marry regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.
This is the right thing to do. All of our brothers, sisters and dear friends deserve the same rights and privileges, regardless of their sexual orientation. You certainly want that for your own family and friends. Our Declaration of Independence says that it is “… 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.”
Since those words were written in 1776, our country has been on a sometimes rocky journey to make this self-evident truth a reality for every American.
We struggled to abolish slavery, to do away with racial segregation, and to give women the right to vote, but those were the right things to do, their time came, and each in turn became reality. Today, any suggestion that we should go back to the “old days” on any of those issues would be met with disgust and derision.
In every quest for equal rights, fear and misunderstanding gives rise to strongly held and strongly voiced opinions. We now hear that fear in the voices of some who resist the idea that marriage equality is an unalienable right in the pursuit of happiness.
Some argue that approval of R-74 will lead to destruction of the American family. But committed same-sex couples have been creating healthy family lives for themselves and their children for years.
Even though you may personally disapprove of same-sex relationships, you cannot in good faith believe that your own family life or your personal values have been under attack from these non-traditional families.
R-74 should appeal to the libertarian streak we Washingtonians are said to share. It simply removes the government as an arbiter of who can and cannot be married. It does not require you to take any action or change your beliefs. It does not require your church to change its teachings, or to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies.
R-74 does no more than recognize the right of all Americans to the pursuit of happiness in this most private part of their lives.
Please vote to approve R-74. It is the right thing to do.
G. VAL TOLLEFSON