Just as the IRS discloses how long it takes to fill out each of its forms (Form 6251, the Alternative Minimum Tax, is supposed to take 3 hours 56 minutes), so have I subjected a representative sample of readers to this morning’s column and determined that, while completion time will vary, you can be expected to reach the end just in time for bed Sunday night.

But even if you skim much of it, I hope you might read the bolded bits. As usual, the good stuff is mainly by others. I’d hate for you to miss it.

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More on Saddam. Your two-minute weekend movie. He is/was a horrible man. But for us suddenly to have discovered this – and urgently to have acted without taking time to build broad international cooperation or to plan well for what to do once we ‘won’ – well, take a couple of minutes to watch this and see what you think.

More on the gay penguins. And why we should let them marry. (A topic I’ll get back to – you have sent some extraordinary e-mails.) But first . . .

MORE NADER

Dave: ‘It troubles me when you blame people for voting for Nader. I, and many others, voted for him because we felt that neither the Republican or Democratic party offered a real choice. In 2000, they both nominated corporate-sponsored rich, white, Christian men, as they always have. Nader may be rich, but at least he’s not in the pocket of special interest groups. Bush has been so very evil, though, that I (like many other Nader voters) would very much like to see someone, anyone, defeat him. But if the Democrats nominate Kerry, I will take my clearly unwanted vote elsewhere. Maybe to the Green party, maybe to the Natural Law party. I think you’re wrong to criticize people for voting for the person they believe to be the best candidate, instead of just voting for someone they believe can win.’

☞ If you live in a state the Democrats will almost definitely win or lose, Dave, then it didn’t and doesn’t much matter. By all means make a statement. Otherwise, we definitely want your vote!

Help me understand why being pro-choice and anti-choice are the same? Why being for massive tax cuts for the very best off and being against them are the same? (To me, this alone is a trillion-dollar difference.) Why being pro-stem cell research that could save your child’s life and being against it are the same?

Is there really no difference between a bias toward conservation and a bias toward oil companies? Between favoring equal rights for gays and lesbians and opposing them? Between being in the pocket of, say, the tobacco lobby and being in the pocket of, say, Emily’s list?

Is appointing Justices like Charles Pickering and Bill Pryor not quite different from filibustering against them?

Can having all three branches of government controlled by the right wing of the Republican party possibly be the same as having veto power over Tom DeLay, Trent Lott, et al?

Are funding after-school programs and defunding them the same? Imposing a global gag order is the same as lifting it?

How about turning a blind eye to offshore tax shelters versus cracking down on them?

Are opposing the minimum wage and opposing increases in the earned income tax credit more or less the same as favoring them?

Appointing an SEC chair like Harvey Pitt more or less the same as appointing one like Arthur Levitt?

How about appointing creationists to scientific panels – the same as not appointing them?

Is having deep ties to the Saudi royal family the same as having deep ties to a ketchup company?

Kerry is no more perfect than you or me or George Washington (though he is taller, I’ll give him that). But Nader – whom as a young man I held in the highest possible regard – turns out to be very considerably less than perfect, too. And even if he were perfect, he can’t win. So a vote for him in a swing state simply plays into Karl Rove’s and Halliburton’s hands.

In the real world, Dave, ‘the perfect is the enemy of the good.’ You are choosing failure rather than accept modest, imperfect success. I totally admire your idealism, but – as we saw in 2000 – it has terrible consequences.

Bruce S. Kern: ‘My wife and I were strong supporters of Ralph Nader in the last election. In hindsight it may not have been a wise decision.’

MORE MARRIAGE

Todd Dyer Davis: ‘In the late 1600’s one of my ancestors (Mary Dyer of Rhode Island) was put to death (by burning) in Boston. Both sides of my family came to this country in the 1600’s to escape religious persecution in England, Ireland and Scotland. Mary Dyer was a Quaker who believed in equality of all people. One of her main goals was to obtain equality for women. The Puritans did not agree with her views. The Puritans had the opinion of the populace behind them and in the ultimate effort to shut her up, had her burned. This shows what can happen when the popular opinion is acted on.

‘Over the years we have been fortunate to have many patriotic people like Mary fight for equal rights for women, African Americans and Minorities. Now it is time for equal rights for gays and lesbians. The basis of the argument of the President is that homosexuality is a sin and sinners should not be afforded the equal rights of marriage. Sin is a religious concept (my Unitarian religion does not believe in sin). Our constitution is based on the separation of church and state with equality for all. A President that wants to revise our constitution (based on religion) to discriminate against a group of people is unpatriotic and un-American. I apologize if this message makes anyone feel uncomfortable; however I believe that I owe a good fight for equality to my ancestor Mary Dyer who made the ultimate sacrifice for the good of our country.’

Jason P: ‘I have been a dyed-in-the-wool Republican since my first conscious political thought. Growing up I would argue politics at the dinner table with my father (he leaned left). I registered to vote and affiliated with the Republican Party in the Danbury High School cafeteria on May 21, 1992. I know the exact voter registration date because I saved my elector certificate from that exciting day.

‘Over the years my GOP journey has led me to serve as chairman of American University’s chapter of College Republicans, work for the Republican Conference Committee on Capitol Hill, and campaign for Newt Gingrich.

‘My GOP journey ended today. I will not be an accomplice to the President’s attempt to defile our great charter by making permanent second class citizens out of America’s same-sex families. I will be at Town Hall to change my party affiliation from Republican to independent when the doors open tomorrow at 8:30 am.’

Two e-mails posted on Andrew Sullivan‘s website:

I voted for President Bush in 2000 and planned to do so again in November. My reason: national security and the man’s seeming personal integrity. As a Jew, I had a gut-level fear of the Christian Right but (1) did not believe Bush shared its worldview and (2) saw fundamentalist Christian support for Israel as indicative that the Christian Right was not anti-Semitic. Then, in one ten day period, I saw the Christian Right go into rapture over a film that is blatantly anti-Semitic (I saw it today), saw Laura Bush both indicate approval of this film and empathy for those disgusted at the idea of gay marriage and then the President made his speech supporting the amendment.

I’m straight and, to me, the Bushes – sensing defeat in November – are going to tap into homophobia, anti-Semitism and whatever else it takes to secure their base. I was never part of that base. Jews, gay Republicans, African-American Bush voters, Hispanics are not part of the base but, add our votes to that of the base, and the GOP wins. But now it loses.

Jews used to be the canary people. Jews still play that role but today, even more so, that role is played by gays. You can judge a party or a leader by how he treats this group, the one group it is still safe to hate in America. Well, Bush has failed the test. I will not be part of the gay-bashing, Mel Gibson adoring, xenophobic America that the Bushes consider their base. This canary has no intention of dying from the poisonous gas of hatred. I’m 58. I have voted for every Republican nominee since Nixon and without regrets. Until now. I wish I could take back my 2000 vote. But, in any case, I will work to get out the vote for Kerry or Edwards. I will not vote for a President who secures the basest elements of his base by dividing Americans. And you know what? He is going to lose. That gay marriage announcement was the desperate act of a desperate man.

Also from Andrew Sullivan’s site, from a soldier in special ops:

Well … And so it now begins. My more liberal friends told me a day like this would come, and now I am forced to eat crow. Words cannot express the hurt and anger I feel for the man’s blatant constitutional and moral attack on a segment of our population. And for the still wobbly among us, make no mistake … this is an attack… I realized long ago I am (was) a Republican solely for foreign affairs. But that’s not good enough anymore. I’ve helped feed the Kurds in Northern Iraq, I’ve slept in the mud and rain to enforce peace treaties in eastern Europe, sweated in 100 percent humidity in southeast Asia, and I dodged too many bullets and remote controlled bombs in and around Mosul to count. But I gladly did this (and will do it again) to protect the rights and liberties of ALL Americans, not just those of my family.

I voted for this man … despite what my family said, despite how many times I was smeared because I am African American and (was) a Republican, despite his joy in being an anti-intellectual … they warned me, they warned me and I didn’t listen … and now I am ashamed of myself. By all that I hold Holy it will never happen again!

So even though the idea of allowing gay marriage was widely unpopular when all this began – around 70/30 I think – and even though it remains unpopular – 55/39 was the last poll result I think I saw, I wonder whether, now that America is thinking about it, this will be the winning issue Bush/Cheney had in mind. (Speaking of Cheney, imagine writing into the Constitution an amendment to permanently deny your daughter equal rights. That’s loyalty!)

Rosie O’Donnell has had Social Security deducted from her paychecks just like you. Why, if she died, should her four kids not get the same Social Security Survivor’s benefits yours would? Why is the President so keen on discouraging families like hers? Why does her domestic tranquility threaten his own? As Americans consider questions like these, I think more and more will be open to entreaties like this one that my friend Mike Rataczak sent everyone he knew:

I need your help.

Tuesday, President Bush publicly announced that he will support a Constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage and ensures that marriage is defined solely as a union between a man and a woman. I’m asking for your help in fighting back against this proposed amendment to the Constitution.

Let me first be clear about something: I support marriage 100%. Between my own common sense and a multitude of social surveys over the last 10 years, it’s clear that marriage – when it’s lasting and loving – only benefits society. My parents will be celebrating their 42nd anniversary this spring, and believe me: growing up in that home was a blessing that colors my entire life. Anyone who has ever visited the lake where I grew up or spent any amount of time with my parents (and many of you in this email have done so) know what I’m talking about.

Honestly, I think we all have common ground on a belief in the sanctity of a loving union between two adults.

However, the message coming from President Bush is that gay men and women are not worthy of marriage. Somehow, we don’t measure up. The message – stated clearly and with no ambiguity by the President – is that marriage is sacred only for heterosexuals, that the admission of gay men and women into marriage will erode the sanctity of marriage and weaken our social structure. To compound the situation, according to the New York Times, the Federal Marriage Amendment currently before Congress (and supported by the President) would specifically deny same-sex couples the “legal incidents” of marriage; and no civil union will be able to overcome that amendment should it be passed. Civil unions simply do not provide the same legal benefits that marriage does. I pay the same federal taxes as heterosexuals, but a Constitutional amendment will guarantee that I will continue to be denied the same legal benefits.

You’ve all known me for years, some of you for my entire life. I’m your son, brother, brother-in-law, nephew, cousin, friend, college roommate, college and graduate school classmate, former work colleague. I’m the godparent to three of your children. I’ve been in your wedding parties; flown around the States and the world to attend your weddings; taken care of your children; pulled all-nighters with you to finish homework or a client presentations; vacationed with you and your families; celebrated your anniversaries/birthdays/new homes/new jobs/children’s’ birthdays; helped you move in and out of new apartments; supported you during a multitude of difficult times; and, throughout, have been grateful beyond description that you’re in my life. I can’t imagine not knowing any of you. It’s been an honor to be involved in all of the above, as well as the hundreds of daily little things that add up to family and friendships. And I know, given the roles you’ve asked me to play in your lives, that my being gay has not mattered to you, and that you value me in your lives as much as I value you in mine.

And so I’m asking for your help. President Bush has essentially just said that I (and every other gay friend and/or family member in your life) am a marginal person in this country, and that a Constitutional amendment must be passed to prevent me from having the same rights as heterosexuals. In addition to being a violation of civil rights, this Constitutional amendment sends a message that I’m inferior and worthy of discrimination. If 1 in 10 men and women are gay, that’s a lot of Americans being sent to the back of the social and legal bus. Think of the social message being sent over time: It’s okay to welcome Uncle Mike/Mr. Rataczak/Mike into your homes but don’t allow him to be a full member of our society – it’s okay that his rights are secondary, because, at the end of the day, he’s marginal.

That kind of social message allows bigotry and violence to grow and flourish. I won’t tolerate being treated like that, and I certainly don’t want my nieces, nephews, godchildren, and your children growing up in that kind of world; they deserve better, as do all of us. Bigotry damages society, for crying out loud, not marriage between same-gender couples.

Essentially, I need your voices. Silence, not response, dignifies the actions that support this Constitutional amendment. Please, write to your Senators and Congressmen and women. Write to the President. And keep writing. Donate money to organizations fighting for the civil rights of gay men and women, such as the Human Rights Campaign (hrc.org) or Lambda Legal (lambdalegal.org). Speak in your children’s schools, talk to your kids about what’s happening, speak at your churches and temples, and don’t sit by quietly when you hear homophobic comments related to the proposed amendment. Participate in demonstrations against the Constitutional amendment. Pass this email onto others, if you feel it’s appropriate. I even venture to ask that you not vote for President Bush this November, but that, ultimately, will be your choice. Whatever you do, be vocal, visible, consistent. And make it as personal as you can.

Many, many thanks to each of you.
– Mike

“Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”
– Mark Twain

KERRY

Bill H: ‘OK, so you kill Bush on the issue of gay marriage but don’t even mention Kerry, who is opposed to gay marriage, and knowing him like we do could change tomorrow and support and Federal marriage amendment.’

☞ I don’t think these are equivalent. Kerry favors civil unions and opposes the Federal Marriage Amendment, which he characterizes as ‘shameful.’ He sponsored the first comprehensive gay and lesbian civil rights bill in the U.S. Senate, stood up on the side of gays in the military, was one of just 14 senators to vote against DOMA (the anti-marriage bill Congress passed) and has consistently supported virtually every gay rights bill and amendment in Congress, with a Human Rights Campaign rating that has ranged from 96% to 100%.

Bush, by contrast, opposed all these things.

And as governor and as President he supported the Texas sodomy law that, until the Supreme Court overturned it a few months ago, allowed the state to arrest consenting adults for having sex in their own bedrooms.

It’s just factually wrong to buy the Republican line that Kerry is inconsistent where Bush is steady. On this point, have you not seen the clips of Bush in 2000 telling interviewers that gay marriage should be left up to the states? Now he says that the states – and, ultimately the Supreme Court – can’t be trusted. He sure trusted it in 2000.

ANDREW SULLIVAN

Let’s give Andrew the last word, because he has worked so hard to support President Bush. Feel free to pass this on to any gay Republicans you may know:

WAR IS DECLARED: The president launched a war today against the civil rights of gay citizens and their families. And just as importantly, he launched a war to defile the most sacred document in the land. Rather than allow the contentious and difficult issue of equal marriage rights to be fought over in the states, rather than let politics and the law take their course, rather than keep the Constitution out of the culture wars, this president wants to drag the very founding document into his re-election campaign. He is proposing to remove civil rights from one group of American citizens – and do so in the Constitution itself. The message could not be plainer: these citizens do not fully belong in America. Their relationships must be stigmatized in the very Constitution itself. The document that should be uniting the country will now be used to divide it, to single out a group of people for discrimination itself, and to do so for narrow electoral purposes. Not since the horrifying legacy of Constitutional racial discrimination in this country has such a goal been even thought of, let alone pursued. Those of us who supported this president in 2000, who have backed him whole-heartedly during the war, who have endured scorn from our peers as a result, who trusted that this president was indeed a uniter rather than a divider, now know the truth.

This president has now made the Republican party an emblem of exclusion and division and intolerance. [I thought he and his Attorney General and the House and Senate leadership had actually accomplished this quite some time ago. – A.T.] Gay people will now regard it as their enemy for generations – and rightly so. I knew this was coming, but the way in which it has been delivered and the actual fact of its occurrence is so deeply depressing it is still hard to absorb. But the result is clear, at least for those who care about the Constitution and care about civil rights. We must oppose this extremism with everything we can muster. We must appeal to the fair-minded center of the country that balks at the hatred and fear that much of the religious right feeds on. We must prevent this graffito from being written on a document every person in this country should be able to regard as his own. This struggle is hard but it is also easy. The president has made it easy. He’s a simple man and he divides the world into friends and foes. He has now made a whole group of Americans – and their families and their friends – his enemy. We have no alternative but to defend ourselves and our families from this attack. And we will. [Hey, Andrew, old pal – click here.]

Monday: Polygamy!

 

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