House Begins Examination of Discriminatory Marriage Amendment; Conservative Lawmakers Join ACLU in Criticizing Measure

March 30, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Saying that discrimination has no place in the Constitution, the American Civil Liberties Union today strongly urged the House Judiciary Committee to reject the proposed federal marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“The amendment smacks of election-year politics,” said Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “The House should listen to the leaders from across the political spectrum who have urged Congress not to write discrimination into the Constitution.”

Two conservatives testified against the amendment today before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, which held the first of five anticipated hearings on the proposed measure.

“There is no reason to push a very divisive issue on the country when the states have the tools now to resolve this issue themselves,” said John Hanes, the Republican Chairman of the Wyoming Senate Judiciary Committee. “Our goal as conservatives should be to avoid creating needless division, and instead let the people alone build their communities without federal interference.”

The Committee also heard from former member of Congress Bob Barr (R-GA), the author of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which allows individual states to not recognize same-sex marriages performed by other states. Barr has previously stated that he “does not support a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage,” preferring instead to “leave the decision to the citizens of each state.”

The ACLU also noted that gay and lesbian families — already denied equal protection — would be irrevocably harmed if the marriage amendment were to be adopted. The ACLU is joined in its opposition by a diverse collection of groups, including the American Bar Association, the NAACP and the Presbyterian Church.

The debate over denying marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples has escalated following the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision that gay and lesbian couples cannot be denied the same rights enjoyed by straight married couples, and the city of San Francisco and other local governments’ issuance of marriage licenses to over 4,000 gay and lesbian couples. Earlier this year, President Bush publicly announced his support for a constitutional amendment to deny marriage rights to committed gay and lesbian couples.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) and Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) have introduced the Federal Marriage Amendment, which in its current form would deny marriage rights to all same-sex and unmarried couples, and prevent state and federal courts from conferring any of its legal benefits. The Amendment would deny states the right to decide who can get married in their states and preempt the state constitutions of the 50 states.

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

The testimony of John Hanes, Chairman of the Wyoming State Judiciary Committee can be found at:

The testimony of Bob Barr, Former Member of Congress and author of DOMA can be found at:

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