May 18, 2006

Contact: Media@dcacluorg                                                           

WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union today expressed its disappointment as the Senate Judiciary Committee, meeting in a tiny room behind the Senate floor, approved a measure to amend the Constitution to deny marriage protections to gay and lesbian couples and their children.  Both houses of Congress overwhelmingly rejected an identical proposal in 2004.

“The Senate Judiciary Committee today took another step towards to undermining the Constitution,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.  “Lawmakers rightly rejected this measure in 2004, but election year politics have resurrected this mean-spirited amendment.  Congress must reject it again. Discrimination has no place in our nation’s founding document.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved the Federal Marriage Amendment, offered by Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO), that would amend the Constitution to deny states the ability to define marriage themselves and to deny all “legal incidents” of marriage to all unmarried couples.  It is identical to the proposed constitutional amendment that was considered - and rejected - by Congress in 2004.  Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) has told Judiciary Committee members that he supported reporting the amendment out of the Judiciary Committee, but will oppose the amendment on the Senate floor. 

The vote took place with committee members meeting in a small room off of the Senate floor, which was closed to the public.  The ACLU noted that voting to amend the Constitution should not be done in secret, but rather through a rigorous and thoroughly open process.

If adopted, the amendment’s broad language would attack marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships, and other legal protections for same-sex couples.  Similar state-level constitutional amendments have already been used to undermine important protections for gay and lesbian couples and their families, such as the basic right to health insurance.

Opposition to the amendment has come from a diverse crowd, including conservative sources: former Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA), the author of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, was joined by Vice President Dick Cheney, former Senator John Danforth (R-MO), columnist George Will, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and others in speaking out against the measure.

“Senators should not vote to amend the constitution behind closed doors, in a room so small that the entire committee barely fits and senators don’t even have enough room to sit down,” said Christopher Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel.  “The nation’s founding fathers must be rolling over in their graves today with a Senate committee that hides from the public while rewriting the country’s most precious document.  The nation deserves more from its Senate.”

To read more about the ACLU’s concerns with the Federal Marriage Amendment, go to:

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