ACLU Applauds Demise of Discriminatory Marriage Amendment; Calls Vote a Victory for All American Families

July 14, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded the apparent demise of the Federal Marriage Amendment as a victory for all American families. The proposal, which would have codified discrimination into the Constitution, had circumvented the normal legislative process of careful deliberation and examination and failed to receive even enough votes in the Senate to end debate.

"Election-year politics may have pushed the amendment, but a commitment to fairness led to its demise," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "The defeat of this discriminatory proposal is the true victory for American families. The Senate has done the right thing by rejecting attempts to write discrimination into the Constitution."

In a rarely seen move - particularly for a measure seeking to amend the Constitution - the amendment had been sent to the Senate floor before the relevant committee and subcommittees have had an opportunity to voice an opinion on the measure. Indeed, there was a lack of consensus among the Republican leadership on the exact wording on the measure to be voted on, with two potential alternatives to be offered to the original proposal.

Today's failure to invoke cloture allows the Senate to continue debate - indefinitely - of the proposed constitutional amendment to bar gay and lesbian couples from marrying. Last week, Senate Democrats had offered to have an up-or-down vote on the measure, an offer that Republicans leaders rejected. Majority Leader Bill First (R-TN) has indicated that he will drop further consideration of the measure. The vote today in favor of ending debate was 48, far fewer than the 60 needed.

Currently, Massachusetts is the only state that permits gay and lesbian couples to marry. In 2003, the state Supreme Judicial Court found that that the state marriage statute violated same-sex couples' rights to due process and equal protection under the state constitution. The state began issuing marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples on May 17, 2004. If it had been adopted, the Federal Marriage Amendment would have denied states the right to decide who can get married in their states and preempt the state constitutions of the 50 states.

The ACLU noted that the amendment had divided the Senate Republican caucus, with many objecting on the grounds that, as former Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA), the author of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, said, ""If we begin to treat the Constitution as our personal sandbox, in which we build and destroy castles as we please, we risk diluting the grandeur of having the Constitution in the first place."

Other prominent Republicans that have voiced their opposition to the amendment include Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice-President Dick Cheney, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and John McCain (R-AZ).

"Discrimination has no place in the Constitution," said Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. "It is wrong to deny those who serve in the military, keep our communities safe as firefighters and police officers, staff our hospitals and pay taxes the right to marry simply because they are gay or lesbian."

More on the ACLU's response to the Federal Marriage Amendment can be found at:

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