ACLU Says Federal Marriage Amendment is Constitutional Disaster; Will Obliterate Many Rights for Same-Sex, Unmarried Couples
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON – Responding to reports this morning that President Bush will soon formally announce support for a constitutional amendment to deny marriage rights to same-sex and unmarried couples, the American Civil Liberties Union said that the amendment supported by the White House is much broader than advertised and will not only ban civil unions but could completely deny a broad range of government benefits to unmarried couples, be they gay or straight.
The ACLU also noted that the measure as written is fundamentally at odds with basic principles of federalism and state authority, which has made the amendment a wedge issue even among conservatives.
“Gays and lesbians are our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends. The serve as firefighters, police, doctors and professional athletes. They laugh at the same jokes and worry about car payments and credit card debt,” said Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “To endorse this mean-spirited amendment with the hopes of denying them the same rights we all take for granted just isn’t very American.”
The debate over denying marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples has been heating up in response to a Supreme Court decision prohibiting state anti-sodomy laws and a Massachusetts Supreme Court decision that same-sex couples cannot be denied the same rights enjoyed by straight married couples.
These developments have prompted social conservatives to introduce a constitutional amendment that would deny all “legal incidents” of marriage – that is the vast bundle of civic benefits conferred by marriage — to any unmarried couple, both same-sex and straight, and would preclude states from even recognizing so-called “civil unions,” which can confer some state level benefits.
The proposed amendment, the ACLU said, could undermine state domestic partnership, adoption, foster care and kinship care laws. It could deny all unmarried couples – regardless of sex – all legal protections for their relationships by overriding any federal or state constitutional protections and federal, state and local laws. In many states, unmarried persons – including unmarried relatives, heterosexual couples, and even unrelated clergy members – have the same rights as married persons to jointly adopt or provide foster care or kinship care.
The proposed amendment also lacks across the board support from conservatives. Former member of Congress Bob Barr (R-GA), a strong opponent of same-sex marriage, “does not support a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage. He prefers 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 reject same-sex marriages performed by other states and has never been challenged successfully in court.
“The Constitution should not be altered unnecessarily, and certainly not to garner political points,” Anders added. “This so-called modest measure is anything but that – if adopted, it could lead to a dismantling of the few protections that state and local governments have given to gay and lesbian Americans. It is the nuclear bomb of anti-gay attacks, forever wiping out all protections for same-sex couples.”
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