ACLU Applauds House Stand Against Discriminatory Marriage Amendment; Calls Vote a Victory for All American Families

September 30, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded the House of Representatives for rejecting the Federal Marriage Amendment, calling the vote a victory for all American families. The Senate had defeated the proposal, which would have written discrimination into the Constitution, earlier this year.

“President Bush and the Republican leadership looked down the barrel of the biggest defeat for anti-gay extremists ever,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “They played fast and loose with the Constitution in a cheap election year ploy, and they lost. Like the Senate did before, the House today said that discrimination has no place in the Constitution.”

“This is the biggest gay-rights victory ever in Congress,” said Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “The Republican leadership showed its true political stripes and failed miserably.”

In July, the Senate effectively killed the measure when a procedural measure to vote on the amendment failed by a vote of 48-50. Today, the House joined the Senate in rejecting the measure in a vote of 227 to 186, well short of the two-thirds required to pass the amendment.

The debate over denying marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples escalated following the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision that gay and lesbian couples cannot be denied the same rights enjoyed by straight married couples, and several local governments’ issuance of marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. On the campaign trail, President Bush has continued to voice his support for the constitutional amendment.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) and Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) had introduced the Federal Marriage Amendment (H.J. Res. 56/S.J. Res. 26), which 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 also deny states the right to decide who can get married in their states and preempt the state constitutions of the 50 states.

This is the second attack on gay and lesbian couples this year, the ACLU said. In July, the House approved a measure that would forever slam shut federal courthouse doors to gay and lesbian couples challenging an anti-gay federal marriage law. That bill is expected to die in the Senate.

Opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment came from unusual sources; Within the Republican party, former Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA), the author of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, was joined by Vice-President Dick Cheney, Congressman Christopher Cox, John McCain (R-AZ) and others in speaking out against the amendment.

“The Constitution is worth protecting, and today the House answered that noble call,” Anders said. “Today’s vote was a bipartisan rejection of misusing the Constitution to play political games.”

More on the ACLU’s response to the Federal Marriage Amendment can be found at:

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