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A Few Rights, Please

By Gordon P. Phelps
Sunday, November 7, 2004; Page B07

Dear America:

Now that you've had a chance to catch your breath, we really need to take a moment and reflect on what has occurred.

I'm sorry to say this, but you've been lied to about who I am and what exactly I am about. You were told some mistruths, such as that I, a gay citizen, want to change your laws and religious definitions of marriage and force churches to marry same-sex couples. Also, that I am assaulting the very fabric of our nation, that I want to marry two, three or more persons or even an animal or two.

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You were told this by partisan politicians who unfortunately were not interested in your well-being, nor mine, nor anyone's but their own. Many different parties debated anxiously over this issue: the media, politicians, judicial bodies, to name a few.

Yet strangely, during all of this, no one asked me: "Gay Citizen, what exactly is it that you want?"

As after the fact as it may be, I think you really deserve to hear the truth. The truth is: I don't want to change your or anyone else's religion. What your faith believes in and promotes is between you and your congregation and your God/Yahweh/Allah/etc. Yes, even if that includes condemning homosexuality and refusing to "marry" same-sex couples. I am saddened to say you were manipulated into believing otherwise, and politicians used your religious faith to do so.

The truth is: The only things I want are the same simple legal -- not religious -- responsibilities and rights that the rest of you get to enjoy without question. The right to share my life responsibilities with the person of my choosing without interference. Joint ownership of property. The ability to make a will that cannot be contested or nullified. The right to designate legal and medical powers of attorney. The right to purchase health insurance for a partner at no different cost than that required for a spouse. And yes, just like you, the responsibility to pay no more than my fair share of income tax when in a committed relationship with one other person. The list of rights and responsibilities that mixed-gender couples have that I am denied is actually much longer; I'd just rather not belabor the point here.

So, does that sound like I want to "change the fabric of the nation"? Does wanting these responsibilities make me the "greatest threat to the United States since communism?" I've served 13 years in the military and five years as a law enforcement officer in my community. Exactly what type of threat to our nation am I? But you were told I was a threat, and somehow you believed it.

Now that you've heard from me, and not some politician, what it is I actually desire, do you really feel that threatened? And would granting me the same responsibilities you and yours enjoy without question truly rend the fabric of our nation asunder?

I believe deep inside you know what the answer is, and, yes, I'd be angry too if I'd been manipulated like that. That manipulation is a greater threat to your faith and our nation than I ever could be. Thanks for listening.

The writer is a resident of Falls Church.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company