Robert and Lanette Graves
Mormon Father Sends Letter to Pres. Bush
"My son has the same rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”
Active in PFLAG and Family Fellowship, Robert and Lanette Graves
are the proud parents of four children, the oldest of whom is gay. After learning
of President George W. Bush's intent to write discrimination into the
US Constitution and ban gays and lesbian from ever being able to
marry, Robert sent the following letter to the White House:
George W. Bush
President, the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Bush:
I'm a 52-year-old lifelong conservative Republican, a Mormon from Utah who has lived and worked in New Jersey and Virginia for the past thirty years, and who voted for you in 2000.
I deeply appreciate the strong and effective leadership that you have shown and continue to show in most issues that affect our nation. I fully and enthusiastically support your actions in Iraq and in the war on terrorism in general. I also support your actions to implement a more enlightened tax policy that will lead to economic prosperity for all Americans. National security, the war on terrorism, and the health of the economy are vitally important issues to my family and me, and I'm very grateful for your superb service to the nation in these areas.
On the other hand, I'm deeply troubled by your statements and positions regarding the rights of homosexuals, and especially by the implication in your recent State of the Union address that you would support amending the Constitution to define marriage as being exclusively between a man and a woman. I believe this would be a monumental mistake, and I urge you in the strongest possible terms not to support any such amendment.
My wife Lanette and I are the parents of four very gifted children--graduates of the University of Delaware, Harvard University, Boston College, Princeton University and Duke University. One is earning a PhD at the University of Virginia, another will enter medical school this fall, and the other two are pursuing successful business careers. They all are immensely talented, and we are very proud of each of them.
About thirteen years ago my wife and I learned that one of these gifted children, our oldest son, is gay. We studied and learned a great deal about homosexuality, including "unlearning" a few things we "knew" that were not true. Most important, we learned that our son did not choose to be gay any more than we or our three "straight" children chose to be heterosexual. We also learned that sexual orientation is a God-given attribute that is not susceptible to change - not by any amount of faith, prayer, good works or so-called reparative therapies. Unfortunately, we know of far too many young people who have taken their own lives, because of their inability to reconcile their very natures with the expectations of their parents, their churches and their communities.
Thankfully, we learned the truth about homosexuality in time to be strong supporters of our son, helping him to become the best man he possibly can, without trying to change what is an important and unalterable part of his nature. As with all our children, we hope that he will be able to find a partner with whom he can establish a happy home, build a family and live a fulfilling life in a loving, committed, lifelong relationship. Specific churches and religious groups are and should remain free to accept or reject such relationships, or to call them by whatever name they choose, but as a legal civil arrangement that confers certain rights, I wholeheartedly agree with the Massachusetts Supreme Court, which found that such same-sex unions must and should be called "marriage," conveying exactly the same rights as unions of heterosexual couples.
I believe the Constitution guarantees my son equal rights under the law, including the right to marry another man and to have that marriage recognized on a fully equal basis as marriages by heterosexuals. This is not a matter of "activist judges imposing their will without regard to the wishes of the people," as you seem to be suggesting. As you know, under the Constitution, the rights of individual citizens are guaranteed. They are protected from the "tyranny of the majority." Under the Constitution my son has the same rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we all enjoy, and this is not dependent on an election or an opinion poll or the particular views of his neighbors. My son's rights are inalienable, and at least so far, they are protected by a Constitution that recognizes this.
To be sure, the Constitution could be amended to limit the rights of homosexuals, but I pray that that day will never come, because it would mark the first time that the Constitution abridged the rights of individuals or a specific group of individuals. Would this lead to proposed amendments to limit the rights of blacks, or Asians, or women, or immigrants, or Jews, or Muslims, or Communists, or Republicans? Such an amendment would undermine the most fundamental principles of freedom upon which our nation is based.
I implore you to pull back from your apparent intention to support a Constitutional amendment to limit marriage to a man and a woman. This would be akin to supporting a constitutional amendment forty years ago to ensure that whites would not have to share schools, lunch counters or the best seats on buses with blacks, if the majority didn't wish to. I pray that you will not apply such a stain to your own reputation and legacy and to the party of Abraham Lincoln.
My wife and I spend a lot of time explaining how we can at once be conservative Republicans and strong supporters of equal rights for homosexuals. Among our many friends and family members who are deeply committed to equal rights for gays, we often feel the need to speak out against mindless discrimination against Republicans. But for me, an anti-gay marriage Constitutional amendment is a bridge that cannot be crossed. If you or any other Republican is willing to emasculate the Constitution of the United States, which I hold sacred, in order to discriminate against homosexuals, that person can never have my vote, even if the alternatives risk greater exposure to terrorism or to economic hardship.
Upholding the inherent right of homosexuals to marry each other in no way threatens the institution of marriage, as many Republicans seem to claim. The arguments raised to support this notion are downright laughable. My daughter is engaged to be married to a fine young man, and the fact that her brother also hopes to find a fine young man to love as a lifelong companion does not change the sexual orientation of either or the desire to cement both relationships in the institution of marriage. If anything, ensuring that the institution of marriage is available to all would strengthen the institution. If committed, responsible heterosexual unions are strengthened through the institution of marriage, the same will be true for homosexual unions, and the broader, more uniform reliance on the institution will only make it stronger. But even if legally excluding gays from civil marriages would somehow "protect the family" or " defend the institution of marriage," which it would not, this would not justify undermining the fundamental freedoms enshrined in our Constitution.
I hope the day will soon come when you and the Republican Party in general will fully embrace the cause of equal rights for homosexuals. In the meantime, at least, I pray that you will not undermine the Constitution by supporting an amendment that would discriminate against homosexuals or any other group. As a fellow Republican I ask you to consider what Abraham Lincoln would do. As a fellow Christian, I ask you to consider what Jesus would do.
Respectfully and sincerely,
Robert K. Graves
||Vice President Richard Cheney
Senator George Allen
Senator John Warner
Rep. Tom Davis