Today I received a response from Congressman Paul D. Tonko supporting Marriage Equality and LGBT rights.
The original response can be downloaded here: Tonko Letter
June 23, 2011
Dear Mr. Skrocki,
Thank you for contacting me with your support for same-sex marriage. Your correspondence is highly valuable, and I appreciate your sentiments.
Currently, same-sex marriages may be performed in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia. New York, Rhode Island and Maryland have laws recognizing same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere. I believe marriage is a civil right and it is wrong to deny gay and lesbian couples this right. A marriage conveys hundreds of legal rights and privileges that unmarried couples cannot exercise, from inheritance to hospital visitation. Denying same-sex couples these rights is equivalent to not guaranteeing them equal protection under the law.
While marriage is an issue left to the states to decide, I hope that every state will one day provide same-sex couples with full marriage rights. Every individual should have the right to marry whomever he or she loves and to have that marriage officially recognized. It is important to recognize that this is not a religious issue; a marriage is a contract in the eyes of the law, and it is not right to deny same-sex couples the right to enter into these contracts. As you may know, the Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and ensure respect for state regulation of marriage. You will be happy to know that I am an original cosponsor of this important piece of legislation. I remain a strong advocate for recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry and have also cosponsored legislation to recognize committed same-sex partnerships similarly to marriage for immigration purposes.
In late February 2011, the Obama Administration announced that it no longer deems the Defense of Marriage Act constitutional and is directing the Justice Department to stop defending the law in federal court. This decision follows two lawsuits filed in November 2010 by individuals who claim the Defense of Marriage Act discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation by denying them various federal benefits.
In addition to the fight for marriage rights, we must work together to wipe out discrimination of all kinds based on sexual orientation and gender identity. For this reason, I am a strong supporter of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which establishes a comprehensive Federal prohibition of employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. By extending the existing federal ban on discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability to also cover sexual orientation and gender identity, we ensure that American businesses hire and retain the very best and brightest employees to keep our economy strong and competitive on a global scale. I have also supported legislation to repeal the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and to expand hate crimes legislation to cover crimes motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity.
These and other pieces of LGBT legislation make a strong statement affirming American values of justice and personal freedom. Please be assured that I will continue to fight on behalf of our LGBT community for equal treatment under the law.
For up-to-date news and information about our district, please visit my website at http://tonko.house.gov and sign up for my E-Newsletter. Additionally, please consider using my social media tools: http://www.facebook.com/reppaultonko, http://twitter.com/paultonko,and http://www.youtube.com/reppaultonko.
Paul D. Tonko
MEMBER OF CONGRESS