Senator Dodd: Rights, responsibilities and love
June 22, 2009Meriden Record Journal
June 21, 2009
US Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut writes in support of the freedom to marry:
"Public officials aren’t supposed to change their minds. But I firmly believe that it’s important to keep learning. Last week, while I was in Connecticut meeting with members of the gay and lesbian community from across the state, I had the opportunity to tell them what I’ve learned about marriage, and about equality.
While I’ve long been for extending every benefit of marriage to same-sex couples, I have in the past drawn a distinction between a marriage-like status (“civil unions”) and full marriage rights.
The reason was simple: I was raised to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. And as many other Americans have realized as they’ve struggled to reconcile the principle of fairness with the lessons they learned early in life, that’s not an easy thing to overcome.
But the fact that I was raised a certain way just isn’t a good enough reason to stand in the way of fairness anymore.
The Connecticut Supreme Court, of course, has ruled that such a distinction holds no merit under the law. And the Court is right.
I believe that effective leaders must be able and willing to grow and change over their service. I certainly have during mine – and so has the world. Thirty-five years ago, who could have imagined that we’d have an African-American President of the United States?
My young daughters are growing up in a different reality from what I did. Our family knows many same-sex couples – our neighbors in Connecticut, members of my staff, parents of their schoolmates. Some are now married because the Connecticut Supreme Court and our state legislature have made same-sex marriage legal in our state.
But to my daughters, these couples are married simply because they love each other and want to build a life together. That’s what we’ve taught them. The things that make those families different from their own pale in comparison to the commitments that bind those couples together.
And, really, that’s what marriage should be. It’s about rights and responsibilities and, most of all, love.
I believe that, when my daughters grow up, barriers to marriage equality for same-sex couples will seem as archaic, and as unfair, as the laws we once had against inter-racial marriage.
And I want them to know that, even if he was a little late, their dad came down on the right side of history.
I have always been proud of my long record fighting for the civil rights of the LGBT community. I’ve co-sponsored legislation to strengthen hate crime laws and end discrimination in the workplace. I’ve spoken out against “don’t ask, don’t tell” and always supported equal rights for domestic partnerships.
But I am also proud to now count myself among the many elected officials, advocates, and ordinary citizens who support full marriage equality for same-sex couples.
I understand that even those who oppose discrimination might continue to find it hard to re-think the definition of marriage they grew up with. I know it was for me.
But many of the things we must do to make our union more perfect – whether it’s fighting for decades to reform our health care system or struggling with a difficult moral question – are hard. They take time. And they require that, when you come to realize that something is right, you be unafraid to stand up and say it.
That’s the only way our history will progress along that long arc towards justice."