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October 31, 2006

An Open Letter to Barack Obama:

By Jan Baumgartner

All men may be created equal, but not all men have equal rights.


All men may be created equal, but not all men have equal rights. The ideology of our founding fathers was based on the premise that "all men are created equal," as so written in the Declaration of Independence. Why then, have we not learned from our mistakes? Prejudice, discrimination and hypocrisy have long challenged the principles that our forefathers put forth as the moral ground upon which this country was founded. And while battles have been fought and won to retain the ideology of equality and our inalienable rights as human beings, for each mountain conquered yet another has formed alongside. In an exaggerated and misguided sense of purpose, we afford fellow Americans equal rights based on what and whom we deem worthy. Not so long ago, many Americans were deemed unworthy of, and stripped of their inalienable rights as human beings. Founded upon personal opinion, corrupt morals, ethics and ignorance, we made decisions for others on how they could or could not live their lives - and how they could live amongst the rest of us - predicated on our rigid societal guidelines and mandates that one-size-should-fit-all. In America not so long ago: - Women could not vote. - African Americans lived a life of severe limitation based on the prejudice and ignorance of their fellow man - were refused the most basic of human rights, liberties, and the dignity of all free peoples. - It was illegal in many states for interracial couples to marry. "The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men." (U.S. Supreme Court, Loving v. Virginia, 1967). In a recent interview on Larry King Live, when asked if you supported gay marriage, your reply was that you did not. While you buffered this by saying that gay and lesbian couples should enjoy many of the same benefits to which married couples are privy, you stopped short of saying that you supported same sex marriage. How then, are all men created equal? History has shown that our shameful discrimination against those we have labeled as "other" or "less than," whether based solely on skin color, gender, or biological sexual orientation, has proven to be contrary to all moral and ethical principles laid forth by our founders. Their struggle to create this ideology was fought over what they believed this country could and should be, what we should represent as a beacon of hope based on fairness and honesty and all that is right. Somehow, along the way, what is fair and right has taken on many forms based upon individual mores, hatred and arrogance. Self-imposed condemnation of another human being that is predicated on color, race, gender, sexual orientation, or other, in no way defines fairness. In 1911, Rep. Seaborn Roddenberry of Georgia introduced a U.S. constitutional amendment to ban interracial marriage. He called such a union, "repulsive and adverse to every sentiment of pure American spirit. It is abhorrent and repugnant. It is subversive to social peace. It is destructive of moral supremacy." Fortunately, all attempts to ban such marriages on a federal level failed, however, state-level bans were imposed and held steady for many years. Slowly, and one by one, states began to strike down their interracial marriage bans, but not until November of 2000, did the last state, Alabama, formally overturn a provision to their constitution that banned these unions. Sadly, Roddenberry's skewed vision of black and white, or what was right or wrong, repugnant and destructive of moral supremacy, seems to have found a home in yet another cause - another fortress built of intolerance. Today, we are spewing much of the same venomous rhetoric as Roddenberry. The only thing that has changed is the target of our discrimination. The fear and hatred of other, the baton of moral and ethical supremacy has been passed on to wedge its way between one segment of American society and another - gay and lesbian couples who wish to celebrate their love and commitment in legal marriage - and those who disapprove of their lifestyle. Being gay is not a lifestyle choice, as many would like us to believe. It is a biological sexual orientation. And, intolerance of it cannot be separated from the actions of those who once wished to expunge, and continue to polarize others due to skin color, sexual preference, or gender once viewed as not vote-worthy. Less than. What is the fear of gay and lesbian marriage? How can we judge and deny two consenting adults in committed, monogamous relationships the same benefits of marriage that heterosexual couples, of all colors, enjoy? Where is the equality? We need to stop viewing fellow human beings as non-human, something other than how we see ourselves. We need to stop being suspicious of those who pray to a different God, those who speak in a different tongue, those of varying shades of color, those whose cultures are foreign and thus deemed threatening. And yet, how can we get around our global paranoia when we feel threatened or repulsed by our family, neighbors and co-workers? While discrimination is nothing new, the current administration has certainly fueled the fear-factor of anything and everyone that can be dissected as variant, suspect, or immoral. It has proclaimed itself as the moral police, the ethics squad, and the only voice of reason. It has crowned itself as the universal decider and has succeeded in polarizing one country from the next, ours from all, and neighbor from neighbor. I do not believe this is what our founding fathers had in mind - nor what any of the great books of religion expounded. Mr. Obama, as the freshest voice to come our way in way too long, a voice of intelligence, reason and of hope, I ask you to reconsider your view on gay and lesbian marriage. What this country needs is a conciliatory message, one of unity, a strong force in bringing together all Americans. We need a leader who no longer divides us through fear mongering, political affiliation, class, color, gender, sexual preference or religion. But rather, one that offers a connection, a peace between not only our fellow countrymen and women, but all global citizens, who like all human beings, want for freedom, respect, dignity, and equality. Let us strive to be worthy of the words of our founding fathers, that indeed, all men are created equal.

Authors Website:

Authors Bio:

Jan Baumgartner is the author of the memoir, Moonlight in the Desert of Left Behind. She was born near San Francisco, California, and for years lived on the coast of Maine. She is a writer and creative content book editor. She's worked as a grant writer for the non-profit sector in the fields of academia, AIDS, and wildlife conservation for NGO's in the U.S. and Africa, comedy writer for live performance at Herbst Theater in S.F., and as a travel writer for The New York Times. Her work has been published online and in print, both nationally and abroad, ranging in such diverse topics as wildlife and nature, travel, humor/satire, Africa, and essays about her experience as a full time caregiver for her terminally ill husband. Her travel articles on Mexico have been widely published; two are included in anthologies. Since her husband's death", and following her passion for world travel, she has made solo trips to France, Italy, Mexico, the Bahamas, Turkey, Kenya and South Africa. She makes her home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico