The following is Rev. Gaddy’s letter to Governor Brewer on her decision to rescind state employee benefits to domestic partners.
September 23, 2009
The Honorable Jan Brewer
Governor of Arizona
1700 West Washington
Phoenix, Arizona 85007
Fax (602) 542-1381
Dear Governor Brewer,
I write to you as the president of Interfaith Alliance, a national organization that celebrates religious freedom and is dedicated to protecting the boundaries between religion and government for the good of both institutions. I was concerned and saddened to read that, according to the Arizona Daily Star, you are eliminating domestic partners’ state employee benefits just one year after they were added to the benefits plan by Governor Janet Napolitano.
By taking these benefits away from domestic partners, you are implementing a policy of unequal treatment for some of your citizens based solely on their sexual orientation. Yet, the U.S. Constitution ensures that social acceptability and civil equality apply to all citizens. Our government thankfully guarantees that every American enjoys the full benefits of citizenship.
Your explanations of why you signed this troubling bill, that reportedly will affect 800 state employees, deepened my concern and set off an alarm. The Star reported that you attribute some of your actions as Governor, at least in part, to your belief that God is responsible for your current position —“God has placed me in this powerful position as Arizona’s governor,”— and that, in affirming a belief of former U.S. Senator John Danforth in his book Faith and Politics, “it is important that we don’t check our religion at the church door. We want to apply it to the rest of our lives.”
Articulating these beliefs that so closely link religion and government directly contradicts the First Amendment, which ensures that these two institutions remain separate, for the good of both. Regardless of your religious beliefs towards domestic partners, in our country, law, not scripture, should be the foundation of government benefits for citizens. Thus, all citizens should receive the same civil rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution without infringing on anyone’s religious rights. Incidentally, I know former Senator Danforth and I am well aware the he and I share a profound appreciation for faith without fostering entanglement between the institutions of religion and government that compromise the integrity of both.
Governor Brewer, why would you choose to take away benefits from domestic partners? This certainly is not upholding the vision of our founders, who believed that practitioners of religion should not impose their beliefs on our civil society. Additionally, your action signals disrespect for the thoughtful leadership of Governor Napolitano. These state employees deserve better. As a minister who believes that faith should be the best friend of equal rights for all people and a citizen concerned about a violation of the Constitution, I urge you to both rethink the legislation, now in legal review, and the mindset that it appears you have applied to this important matter.
It is unlikely that this is the last question related to domestic partner benefits that you will face. I trust that you will revisit some of the core tenets of our Constitution – equality of all people and the clear boundary between government and religion – as you deal with this issue moving forward. If you do, I believe you will conclude that domestic partners, as equal citizens, deserve the same benefits as all other Americans.
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
President, Interfaith Alliance
Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.