As House Announces Schedule for "Marriage Hearings," ACLU Calls on Congress to Reject Discriminatory Amendment

March 4, 2004 12:00 am

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As House Announces Schedule for “Marriage Hearings,” ACLU Calls on Congress to Reject Discriminatory Amendment


WASHINGTON – Following yesterday’s Senate subcommittee hearing on a proposed constitutional amendment to deny marriage rights to gays and lesbians, the House Judiciary Committee today announced a schedule for hearings to be held on the same issue. The American Civil Liberties Union urged the Committee to reject the proposed amendment, saying that such an extreme measure could forever deny protections to same-sex couples.

“Those that attended yesterday’s hearing saw loving, committed families who would forever be denied basic rights if such an extreme measure were enacted,” said Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Families headed by gay and lesbian couples share the same concerns as others – PTA conferences and doctor visits – but some would use a discriminatory constitutional amendment to say that their commitment is somehow invalid and seek to deny hundred of thousands of families the few protections made available to gay and lesbian couples.”

At yesterday’s Senate hearing, a diverse body of people voiced their opposition to the amendment – a prominent conservative, a well-respected law professor, and a representative of the NAACP. All cautioned Senators not to write discrimination into the Constitution with this amendment. Hilary Shelton, Director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau, called the Federal Marriage Amendment “a tool of exclusion.” Also in attendance were several gay and lesbian parents and their children.

The debate over denying marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples has escalated following the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling which found that gay and lesbian couples cannot be denied the same rights enjoyed by straight married couples. The debate continued when the city of San Francisco and other localities began issuing marriage licenses to more than 3,000 gay and lesbian couples. Last week, President Bush publicly announced his support for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) and Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) introduced the amendment, which, aside from denying the rights of loving, committed same sex couples to marry would also deny all the “legal incidents” of marriage to any unmarried couple. While proponents of the measure claim that state legislatures could still recognize same-sex relationships through civil unions or domestic partnerships, the ACLU and other organizations stated that the broad language of the amendment would deny marriage rights for any other than those in opposite sex marriages.

The proposed amendment has been targeted by many conservatives. Former member of Congress Bob Barr (R-GA), who opposes legal recognition of homosexual marriages, stated in reaction to the Massachusetts ruling that he, “does not support a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage,” preferring instead to, “leave the decision to the citizens of each state.” Barr was the author of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which allows individual states to not recognize same-sex marriages performed by other states.

“We must not use our nation’s founding document to score a few cheap political points,” Anders said. “A constitutional amendment would forever deny marriage rights to committed gays and lesbian couples fails the promise of fundamental freedom and fairness for all.”

To read the NAACP’s testimony, go to:

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

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