Chief Justice John Roberts
Supreme Court of the United States
Dear Mr. Chief Justice:
How much more violation must gay men and women suffer before you decide No More?
This past week, Roger Gorley was beaten by police while being forced to leave the bedside of his domestic partner at the Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, despite a standing Presidential directive granting full visitation rights to gay and lesbian partners, despite having the necessary medical power of attorney, and despite the insistence of his partner, “I want him here.” None of this was to any avail. The hospital deferred instead to an estranged brother and sister of the patient because they claimed they were next of kin.
What will it take for you to rule that same-gender partners are next of kin. How much data — how much more human suffering — will it take to satisfy you that same-gender couples deserve the full privileges and equal protections of the law that you enjoy with your spouse, and that you would want your kids and their spouses to enjoy, whomever they marry.
This past week, New Mexico’s Governor Susana Martinez chose to veto legislation that would have helped same-gender spouses and domestic partners of gay military personnel obtain professional work licenses in New Mexico, while moments later she signed an identical bill that made the same help available to spouses in heterosexual military couples.
Your Honor, in your comments from the bench two weeks ago during the Court’s oral arguments on California’s Prop 8, you wondered out loud whether at the heart of the move for marriage equality, the real issue was just one of a “label” – whether the real issue was just one of wanting to use marriage to qualify the relationship between two men or two women, where civil union already carried the same legal weight (at least in California).
No Your Honor, we can use all that other language until we are blue in the face — civil union, domestic partner, even husband, wife and spouse if we come from a state that has legalized same-gender marriage — but there are 29 states where none of that carries any recognition much less any force of law. There are 29 states that, either by statute or by constitutional amendment, ban any legal recognition of same-gender relationships and bar any familial rights to partners of a same-gender couple. Missouri is one of those states. As a result, we witness the self-righteous actions of the Kansas City medical center staff and the police. But, New Mexico is not one of those states. In fact in New Mexico, neither the constitution nor the marriage statute explicitly forbid same-gender marriage and neither explicitly define marriage as between a man and a woman. But the Governor, when given the choice, decided that same-gender military spouses should not enjoy the same legal benefits as do their heterosexual armed forces’ neighbors.
No Your Honor, the movement for marriage equality is not labor for a label. The movement for marriage equality is a struggle to be treated with equanimity. Same-gender couples are grossly discriminated against throughout the United States because states laws allow for it. The dignity of same-gender couples is violated every day by politicians and citizens alike living in 29 states because they can. And they do. And it is legal.
And it is unseemly.
Your Honor, I suspect that not often does a case appear before the Supreme Court that carries with it the capacity to clarify our character as an American people — all deserving of equal dignity before the law. So, again I ask: How much more indignation must same-gender spouses and domestic partners suffer before you can bring yourself to rule No More?