When Kathy Betts sent an email to her state representative asking him to support gay marriage, she said she was floored by his response.
"I was offended. I was speechless. I felt belittled," Betts, 38, told the Sun-Times. "It was the slippery slope argument."
The slippery slope argument it was, a contrite-sounding state Rep. Tom Morrison told the Sun-Times. Morrison, a conservative from Palatine who has been open about his opposition to gay marriage, said he should have been more careful in responding. But he didn't mean what she thought he did.
What he wrote, what she was so offended by, was this: "Could a man marry a consenting 9-year old girl? Why not? To refuse them would be discrimination. Again, where would you draw the line?"
Was he equating same-sex marriage with statuatory rape? "No, no, not at all," Morrison told the Sun-Times in an interview. "Am I imperfect in my wording? Yeah, if I could rewrite an email, if I knew that it would be offensive, yeah. I'm opposed to the redefinition of marriage."
Betts, who lives in Palatine, and is gay, said she reached out to Morrison in an email to ask him why he was opposed to same sex marriage.
"I was asking him to vote on the side of equality and not continue discrimination against gay marriage. I shared a story of one of my friends who talked about her caretaker for her daughter, standing up in her church and speaking up," Betts told the Sun-Times.
When she read the part about a man marrying a 9-year-old girl she said she found it offensive.
"That's not what straight couples have right now, I just want what straight couples have now."
Betts and her girlfriend have been together for nine years, she said.
As of Thursday night, she was still thinking about how to respond to Morrison, she said. She said she was thinking of writing up something comparing "the fight that African Americans had with interracial relationships or any race for that matter."
After the Sun-Times brought the issue to Morrison's attention, he sent Betts a follow-up email apologizing to her and offering to sit down and discuss the issue.
Morrison said he gets thousands of emails and he tries his best to reply to them and when he does, he tries to be respectful and make clear that he's a person, just like the person with whom he's speaking.
"We happen to live three blocks apart, I just try to establish that look: I'm a real person, and I know you're a real person. We can have a real discussion without blasting each other. I do whatever I can to say, look, we may disagree but we can respect each other," Morrison said.
Here's a copy of the email that both Betts and Morrison confirmed was exchanged.
Thank you for writing to me. We're fairly close neighbors, and I pass your home frequently on the way to mine. Anyway, I apologize for the slow response to your note.
I would simply ask you this: if you are for the re-definition of marriage to remove the gender distinction of one male and one female, then where would you draw the line? If one male and one female is discriminatory, then isn't limitation of marriage to just two people discriminatory, too? There are men who would like to marry two or more consenting females. Would you define their relationship as marriage, too? Could a man marry a consenting 9-year old girl? Why not? To refuse them would be discrimination. Again, where would you draw the line?
If you say a man and a 9-year old girl in marriage is absurd, then I would point out that only 20 years ago or so it would have been considered absurd that two men or two women could marry.
State Representative - District 54