ACLU Urges House to Reject Discriminatory Constitutional Amendment, Notes Senate Failed to Limit Debate on Measure in June

July 18, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the House of Representatives to reject a discriminatory proposal 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, and the Senate in June failed to limit debate on the measure, effectively killing it. The House is expected to consider the amendment later today.

“The House must reject this discriminatory proposal,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Just last month, the Senate failed to invoke cloture on this unnecessary and unfair measure. The House rightly rejected it in 2004, but election year politics have resurrected this mean-spirited amendment. The Constitution should not be used to score cheap political points.”

The Federal Marriage Amendment, offered by Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) would amend the federal Constitution to deny states the ability to define marriage, a right they have had since the founding of the republic. The amendment requires that marriage be only between one man and one woman, and would deny all protections of marriage to all unmarried couples. It is identical to the proposed constitutional amendment that was considered – and rejected – by Congress in 2004.

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

The ACLU noted that with the Senate’s failure to limit debate and vote on the proposal, the House vote has become irrelevant. Even if the House were to adopt the amendment, it would be a purely symbolic vote, as two-thirds of both chambers of Congress must adopt a constitutional amendment for it to be ratified by the states.

Opposition to the amendment has come from a ideologically diverse spectrum, including prominent conservatives: Former Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA), the author of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, Vice President Dick Cheney, former Senator John Danforth (R-MO), columnist George Will, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and others have all spoken out against the measure.

“Congress should reject attempts that push divide and conquer politics,” said Christopher Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Americans deserve better than this discriminatory vote.”

For more on the ACLU’s fight against the Federal Marriage Amendment, go to:

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