Senate Panel Must Rebuff Discriminatory Amendment to Constitution, ACLU Says Measure Must be Stopped Again

November 9, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today called upon a key Senate panel to reject attempts to amend the Constitution to deny marriage protections to gay and lesbian couples and their children. An identical proposal was overwhelmingly rejected by both houses of Congress last year.

“The Constitution exists to protect rights, not undermine them,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Congress rightly rejected this measure last year and it must reject it again. Discrimination against hard-working Americans has no place in our nation’s founding document.”

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights met today to consider the Federal Marriage Amendment, offered by Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO), that would amend the Constitution to define marriage as between “a man and woman” and would deny all “legal incidents” of marriage to all unmarried couples. It is identical to the proposed constitutional amendment that was considered – and rejected – last year.

While proponents of the measure claim that their intent is to “protect” marriage and not undermine legal protections for same-sex couples and their families, the ACLU said that if adopted, anti-gay activists would use the amendment’s broad language to attack same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships. Similar state-level constitutional amendments have been used to undermine legal protections for gay and lesbian couples and their families.

The amendment comes at a time when there is growing national recognition of same-sex couples and families. Recently, in a unanimous decision, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for the state to continue to deny lesbian and gay state employees and retirees access to equal benefits for their domestic partners.

Opposition to the amendment has come from a diverse crowd, including Pro-Family Pediatricians, a collection of over 750 pediatricians, which has urged Congress to oppose any federal marriage amendment to the Constitution, citing concerns over the potential harm to children and their families. Opposition to the amendment last year came from conservative sources: former Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA), the author of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, was joined by Vice President Dick Cheney, Representative Christopher Cox (R-CA), Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and others.

“Denying marriage protections to same-sex couples and their children jeopardizes the security of American families,” said Christopher Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Congress should not try to score cheap political points by taking away protections from Americans in loving relationships and their children. The American people deserve better.”

To read more about the ACLU’s concerns with the Federal Marriage Amendment, go to:

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