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Wednesday, April 21, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Letters to the editor

RIGHTS OF MARRIAGE

Exchange of vows should not require forsaking some others

Editor, The Times:

Shame on those African American ministers who use their Christian position to deny 1,000-plus secular rights and responsibilities to lesbians and gays. I refer to the rights, responsibilities and duties of the state of marriage defined in law — not to the religious ritual of a marriage, which individual denominations are free to grant or deny based on their own understanding of religious doctrine ("Is same-sex marriage a civil-rights issue?" Times, page one, April 19).

The denial of secular rights and responsibilities, by any reasonable understanding, is discrimination in our society. In simple terms, that is a fundamental wrong, whatever the color of one's skin. Saying that gays and lesbians have not suffered as have blacks is an appalling and embarrassing irrelevancy.

For better or for worse in our country, "marriage" has both a religious and a secular identity. Countries in Europe and elsewhere make clear that, for access to the legal benefits and responsibilities, a couple must undergo a civil marriage. A religious ritual is an option for the couple to decide upon according to their own lights.

In our own country, a civil wedding, performed by a judge or other empowered official, is equally valid as that done in a religious setting, in the eyes of the law.

My parents, devout Catholic though my mother was, were married at City Hall in Brooklyn, N.Y., in a decidedly civil ceremony. Worked for them. It ought to work for me and any other lesbian or gay person who wishes to marry.
Charles Brydon, Seattle

Fertile soil for continued growth

Those who are seeking to legalize same-sex marriage are not taking into account all the ramifications. For example, if a citizen marries a non-citizen, the non-citizen then becomes naturalized. Do we want all sorts of men marrying and pretending to marry other men in order to sidestep the naturalization process? This is only one issue. There are many more.

As I understand it, legal marriage exists to safeguard the childrearing process. I realize that this interpretation has weaknesses and invites numerous challenges, but the basic concept is sound.

If we start expanding the definition of marriage, it will become a meaningless institution that safeguards nothing. Why not call two platonic friends married? Why not call any group of people who have any kind of relationship at all married?

Prior to gays being accepted into society, there was no need to safeguard the institution of marriage. Now that they have been accepted, making new laws that safeguard marriage and its essential function becomes necessary. This is not a case of discrimination, but of overhauling old boundaries.
Scott Wall, Seattle

Honorable escape

Pastor Reggie Witherspoon Jr. is correct, "... marriage is not a civil-rights issue at all, but a moral issue." It's time to quit pretending that the bedroom activities of consenting adults can be regulated. Regardless of the genders involved, governments should promote social stability by recognizing "civil unions" only, leaving recognition of and moralizing about "marriage" to the domain of the religious sector.
Susan Schulte, Lopez Island

Overcome with love

Regarding "Is same-sex marriage a civil-rights issue?" I'm honestly baffled that this question is even being pondered by the African-American community.

Former President Nelson Mandela and South Africa are now celebrating 10 years of multiracial democracy and 10 years of having the only constitution in the world that explicitly protects the rights of gays and lesbians. Coming out of nearly 50 years of apartheid — a systemized racism that arguably made the United States' racial policies look like a cake walk — Mandela and black South Africa seem to realize that civil rights are not the exclusive property of one group of people.

Why so many in the African-American leadership fail to grasp this concept is disheartening.
Jason Caucutt, Seattle

SUMMER JOBS

Staffing seeks its own level

"Don't cheap out at the Ballard Locks" (editorial, April 14) repeats rumors that are circulating in the maritime community regarding the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard.

Navigation is a primary purpose of the locks. The locks were commissioned to contribute to the industrial and commercial growth of the area; that commerce is still a viable resource. The Army Corps of Engineers' goal is to provide safe and orderly navigation for all vessels.

Current national priorities and prudent fiscal management require us to operate the locks in the most efficient manner. We want to align existing staffing with vessel traffic.

We plan to retain the existing 23 lockwall employees, who manage locking expertly, keeping the boating public safe and moving efficiently. The Corps does not plan to hire seasonal employees to augment our capable, existing staff this summer. We are assessing how best to staff the locks for the future to maintain all required operations, including navigation, security, maintenance and visitor assistance.

We are also evaluating new technologies and options for operation. Should we identify any potential changes in locks operation, we will seek public input regarding potential impacts.

Annually, 60,000 vessels — the most in the nation — transit the locks. The park hosts 1.5 million visitors per year, contributing significantly to the local economy. Our obligation is to ensure safe vessel passage and safe park visits. I plan to maintain the staff at the locks to ensure that we continue to meet all of our obligations and provide a viable resource now and in the future.
Diane Parks, chief of operations, Seattle District, Army Corps of Engineers

FANTASY JOB

The subordinate apprentice

This concerns the 21st-century woman (who wrote) about Donald Trump's protégé ("Trump no mentor," Northwest Voices, April 17). For her to imply "The Apprentice" would have an impact on any intelligent young woman looking for a position in the corporate environment is absurd. How can she put credence in any decision by Trump made in a television reality series staged and scripted purely for entertainment and ratings?

She said if a woman had acquired the Trump apprentice position it would have set an example to companies everywhere that a woman is capable of earning a three-digit paycheck. This so-called 21st-century woman has set a poor example for her gender by suggesting a woman's value, intellect and success in the workplace would be further recognized or enhanced by winning the position on this "Fortune 500 soap opera."

By the way, the winner was entitled to a one-year contract paying $250,000... that's a (count 'em!) six-digit paycheck, ma'am.
Michael Bush, Seattle

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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