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Here’s my response to Dennis Shaughnessey’s Copious Notes column in the Jan. 12 edition of The Valley Dispatch.

I’ll be so bold as to offer a solution you are seeking: Hold yourself, and those of your faith, to the values of your faith; but, please don’t hold people that are not of your faith to those same practices.

A cornerstone of the success and endurance of this country is religious freedom and tolerance. If your religion doesn’t feel gay people should marry within the church, so be it, but that should not prevent them from seeking civil marriage, or marriage within a different religion, and the recognition thereof. While I have yet to hear of anyone articulate the harm that civil gay marriage will do to the “institution of marriage,” I am certain that many will benefit from that institution, particularly the children of gay couples.

Please recall from your high-school civics class that the rights we enjoy in this country are not bestowed upon us by our Constitution, they are endowed within us at birth. The purpose of our constitutions, state and federal, is to define and constrain our governments, to prevent them from encroaching on those natural rights. Each of us pursues happiness in different ways, and so long as we don’t harm each other (think physical harm, slander), the proper role of government is to stay out of the way of a person’s pursuit of happiness — civil marriage for the case of some same-sex couples.

We have a republican form of government to prevent the “tyrany of the majority” that discriminates against minorities in a pure democracy.

Shame on the Massachusetts Legislature for not doing its job in soundly defeating the ballot initiative. Never before has an American Constitution been amended to discriminate against a minority in the way that some Massachusetts voters are considering.

Discrimination was wrong when we discriminated against the blacks; it was wrong again when we discrminated against the Irish. If this unfortunate and misguided initiative makes it to the polls, before you vote please substitute “black”, “Irish,” and “handicapped” for “same-sex” to see if it changes your mind on the matter, because this sort of discrimination is still wrong.

BRIAN R. KEY

Pelham