My parents raised me to respect the law, live consistently with the faith teachings of love and respect for all, work hard to achieve success on my own merit, and serve purposes more important than myself. By age 25 I had been active in church, routinely volunteering and presenting the truths of my faith; I had never tried an illicit substance or an ounce of alcohol other than for Communion; I had accomplished much academically; I had had no run-ins with the law (or with a principal or headmaster, for that matter); and I had been named a deputy legal counsel to Republican Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., possibly the youngest person so named in Maryland history.
Yet on a beautiful winter afternoon I trembled, ashamed, when I handed my mother a letter telling her about the struggle for and of my life. That letter detailed my trials with so-called reparative therapy and religious counsel to try to suppress and change what I thought, felt and knew. It told my mother about how she deserved a perfect child; how I'd thought often about how much better my parents' life could be without me and how sorry I was for failing them.
I still find it difficult to come to terms with that letter, because the life I dreamed of for so long is not possible for me and so many others. And although I tried so hard, there is nothing I could do about it. I still feel disappointment that I cannot be all that my parents deserve. After all, you cannot change your mindset overnight, especially not one built on years of feeling that, because state law says so, you and the relationship you might have mean less than the people and relationships that make up your family, friends and neighbors. Life's accomplishments pale in comparison to wanting and being part of a family, one recognized as legitimate.
On Thursday, Oct. 18, in a landmark decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. A judge appointed by President George H. W. Bush wrote the decision and pointed out what supporters of Maryland's Question 6 have been saying all along, that "law (federal or state) is not concerned with holy matrimony. Government deals with marriage as a civil status.... A state may enforce and dissolve a couple's marriage, but it cannot sanctify or bless it. For that, the pair must go [to a place of worship]." Remarkably, five out of the eight judges who have written decisions striking down Section 3 of DOMA were appointed by Republicans, and Judge Vaughn Walker, the federal judge who struck down California's Proposition 8, was appointed by President Ronald Reagan.
Seemingly month after month, the legal arguments in support of marriage equality convince conservatives and liberals alike to side with freedom, dignity and equal rights. They understand that core American values -- individual liberty, equal justice, personal responsibility, strong families and religious freedom -- are advanced by ending state-sponsored discrimination.
Despite the mountain of legal opinions and transcripts of testimony showing that opponents of marriage equality do not have evidence to support their contentions, some people are still not convinced that voting for Question 6 is the right thing to do. Many well-intentioned people feel that faith teachings require overturning a law that makes everyone equal.
But that's not the best conclusion, and here's why: the golden rule. Asked, "Which commandment in the law is the greatest?" Jesus answered, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:36-40).
Each day a mother just like mine has to see her child break down in her lap because he or she matters less to others as a result of state law. It seems inconceivable that anyone could wish this upon a neighbor.
Marriage inequality makes us and our families inferior. It demeans our existence and controls our destiny. Regardless of whether they were appointed by Democrats or Republicans, our nation's judges, trusted with the interpretation of our laws, are increasingly recognizing this reality. Maryland voters need to do the same.
A vote for Question 6 can end injustice and unequal treatment under the law. Confirm in my mother's eyes that I matter as much as you do.