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Letter from Rev. Meg Riley
An Open Letter to President Bush
February 24, 2004
Dear Mr. President,
This morning you felt compelled to introduce an amendment to the Constitution of the United States defining marriage as existing only between one man and one woman.
You say that this will create "clarity." I would like you to share this clarity with my first grade daughter on her school playground, when the children, imitating their role models as they always do, will take up the issue. Because I dread those conversations with every fiber of my being.
Challenged by another child, my daughter will declare forthrightly that of course her two moms are married. After all, we have wedding photos in our home, as any couple does. They show her two moms, fifteen years ago, in front of our Unitarian Universalist Congregation. Smiling, with many of our friends and family members around us.
You see, we have not yet discussed with this seven year old, precocious as she is, the distinction between civil and religious marriage. She knows only that we are her parents, the only ones she's known. She knows that we got married in our church, as her aunts and uncles did, and that our neighborhood and church, her school and social circle, involves a significant number of kids with two moms and a few with two dads. She knows that we provide the only stability, the only bedrock, that she has ever known.
Of course she knows that there are people who say that two men or two women cannot be married. She knows that, not very long ago, some people said that no one could marry someone of a different race, but now of course we no longer believe that. But I haven't yet been able to break it to her that some people want to change our Constitution to say that our family isn't part of "We the people." I just haven't found a way to fit it in between soccer and karate and church.
Tonight I will sit her down, after we've done her homework, and have the conversation that I hoped I could avoid. I will tell her that you, the President of the United States, have decided that only a man and a woman can be married, and that you want to make that part of our Constitution. Yes, the document she adores from watching Liberty's Kids and reading Magic Treehouse books. I will tell her that I don't believe this change in the Constitution will happen, not enough people will vote for it. But it does mean that people may say very mean things to her at school about our family. She will be afraid. I will project confidence and good humor, but I will be afraid, too.
I do not want to teach my daughter that the President of the United States does not include our family in the people he serves and protects. I do not want to say to her that the very flag she loves will be waved by people who believe that it does not belong to our family.
Please, Mr. Bush, tell me how I should conduct myself "without bitterness or anger" at this time, as you instructed me today. Come over to my house tonight: you look at my daughter’s eyes as they absorb the fact that you, the first President she has ever known, thinks she can no longer be included in the very Constitution of this land. You tell me how to "conduct this difficult debate in a matter worthy of our country." Because I am at a loss.
The Rev. Meg A. Riley
Unitarian Universalist Association