ACLU Renews Call to Keep Discrimination Out of Constitution; Points to Lack of Cohesion in Republican Party on Divisive Issue

June 22, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — Prominent Republicans are expected to duel today before a Senate committee over whether Congress should adopt the Federal Marriage Amendment, a proposal that would write discrimination into the Constitution.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, former Rep. Bob Barr, a conservative Georgia Republican who believes the marriage amendment to be an unnecessary trampling of states rights, will counter the pro-amendment arguments of Mitt Romney, the Republican Governor of Massachusetts, which recently became the first state in the nation to perform state-sanctioned same sex marriages.

The American Civil Liberties Union called once again on Senators to reject the politically motivated proposal.

“Despite the Governor’s objections, Americans have more important issues to worry about than whether gay and lesbian couples can marry in Massachusetts,” said Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Denying marriage rights to same-sex couples fails our national commitment to ending discrimination. Indeed, this highly charged constitutional proposal reeks of election year political maneuvering and anti-gay rhetoric. Discrimination in any form — especially by Congress — is wrong, and should be rejected.”

The debate over denying marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples has escalated following the 2003 Massachusetts Supreme Court decision that those couples cannot be denied the same rights enjoyed by straight married couples, and the city of San Francisco and other local government’s issuance of marriage licenses to over 7,000 gay and lesbian couples. Massachusetts began issuing marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples on May 17, 2004.

In response to the these actions, Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) and Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) introduced the Federal Marriage Amendment, which, if adopted, would deny marriage rights to all same-sex and unmarried couples, and prevent state and federal courts from conferring any of the legal benefits of marriage. 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.

Barr, the author of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which allows individual states to not recognize same-sex marriages performed by other states, urged Senators to oppose the amendment. “If we begin to treat the Constitution as our personal sandbox, in which to build and destroy castles as we please, we risk diluting the grandeur of having a Constitution in the first place,” Barr said.

“Our Constitution is not a document that should be used to score political points, and most certainly should not be amended to render a whole population of Americans as second-class citizens,” Anders added. “The ‘pro-family’ supporters of the measure are more interested in vilifying gay and lesbian Americans then they are about helping families. No American family should be on the receiving end of legally sanctioned discrimination.”

Former Member of Congress Bob Barr’s testimony is online at:

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

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