My daughter should have the same freedoms as my son

If you have children or grandchildren or nephews or nieces, I know you want the same freedoms for all of them.

So do I. But I need a little bit of help from you to make basic freedoms a reality for my daughter.

A few years ago, my son had a wedding party at the house in Talent where my wife of 37 years and I live. He had met a wonderful woman, and they fell in love. They wanted to make their long-term commitment to each other in front of their family and friends.

Without any complications, the state of Oregon issued them a marriage certificate that recognizes their love and commitment in the eyes of the whole community. There was no government interference in their personal freedom.

Like our son, our daughter is in her early 30s. Just like her brother, she's used to earning a paycheck, paying taxes, volunteering in her community, and helping her neighbors.

If she meets someone who she wants to make a long-term commitment to, that someone will be a woman. And if they choose to get married, they will be welcome to have a wedding party at our house, just as our son did.

But here's where you come in. As of now, the state of Oregon would exclude our daughter from the freedom to marry.

That's why over the next few months you may notice people in our valley circulating petitions to put the freedom to marry on the statewide ballot next year. That way, in November 2014, Oregon can join Washington state and many others in ending the denial of marriage to people like my daughter.

I understand that this subject makes some people uncomfortable. Like many people who may be reading this, I grew up in a different world when it came to the subject of gay and lesbian people.

The freedom to marry for all people in our community was never a big concern for me. Sure, I had co-workers, neighbors and friends who I knew were gay or lesbian. I knew some of them were in loving and committed relationships, and that they wanted to be there for each other, in good times and in bad, But I never thought much about the fact that they were excluded from expressing their commitment through marriage if that was their choice.

But times change, and I want the same freedoms for my daughter — and for all Oregonians — that I want for my son.

Some people ask me, "Why couldn't your daughter just register for a domestic partnership if she finds someone she loves and is committed to?"

The answer is simple. Freedom applies to everyone. Marriage is the recognized way many people in our society choose to express their commitment. My wife and I had that freedom. Our son had that freedom. Why shouldn't our daughter and everyone else have that freedom as well?

The ballot measure next year would protect that freedom. All it will do is ensure that everyone has access to civil marriage — the official recognition of a marriage by the state. Religious institutions and individual families will continue to be free to apply their own practices about marriage as they always have.

Regardless of your own traditions, I hope you will join other Oregonians in supporting liberty for all, both as petitions for the freedom to marry are being circulated now and when the measure is on the ballot a year from now.

As parents, my wife and I encouraged our daughter when she was growing up to respect other people's liberties and to treat others as she would hope to be treated.

Now, we need your help to make sure our state applies those basic values to her and to all Oregonians. Thank you!

Matt Witt is a writer and photographer who lives in Talent.

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