ACLU Says Election-Year Politics Push Discriminatory Measure, Imminent Senate Vote on Marriage Amendment Likely to Fail By Wide Margin

July 13, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – With a vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment expected this week, the American Civil Liberties Union today called on the Senate to reject attempts to write discrimination into the Constitution. The amendment, which is expected to fail by a wide margin, is being pushed onto the Senate floor even though it has circumvented the normal legislative process of careful deliberation and examination.

“Only in an election year would we see such an doomed attempt to include discrimination in the Constitution,” said Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Congress should be focusing on more pressing issues and not ways to discriminate against hard-working American families. But a clear majority of the Senate is now poised to reject this divisive political ploy.”

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.

Even though only one state currently allows marriage equality, Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) and Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) introduced the Federal Marriage Amendment, which, if adopted, would deny marriage rights to all same-sex and unmarried couples, and prevent state and federal courts from conferring any of the legal benefits of marriage. The amendment would also deny states the right to decide who can get married in their states and preempt the state constitutions of the 50 states.

The Senate began debating the amendment on Friday, and is scheduled to vote on the measure sometime this week – possibly as early as this afternoon. In a rarely seen move – particularly for a measure seeking to amend the Constitution – the amendment has been sent to the Senate floor before the relevant committee and subcommittees have had an opportunity to voice an opinion on the measure.

The ACLU said the amendment has 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.”

“Much of the election year rhetoric of the proponents focus on ‘protecting families,'” Anders added. “If adopted, the Federal Marriage Amendment would destroy the protections for those American families headed by gay and lesbian couples. 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:
/marriageamendment

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