Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, on Thursday reintroduced the discriminatory Federal Marriage Amendment, now renamed the "Defense of Marriage Amendment." The bill is designed to punish same-sex couples, gay parents, and their children by stripping the federal government and each individual state from offering marriage equality--and the attending protections and responsibilities--to all its citizens.
Lungren's bill includes language that would not only invalidate thousands of existing legal same-sex marriages in Massachusetts but would likely inhibit states from offering and could possibly overturn civil unions or domestic-partnership recognition for gay and lesbian taxpayers. The Senate version of the amendment was reintroduced in January.
In announcing the bill, Lungren denigrated the U.S. court system as undemocratic.
The measure was reintroduced four days after a California judge ruled that barring same-sex couples from equal marriage rights violates the state constitution. Lungren called superior judge Richard Kramer's call for equal treatment for all Californians "an act of lawlessness" and said that marriage discrimination needed to be written into the U.S. Constitution because "the courts aren't democratic institutions."
The proposed amendment reads:
"Marriage in the United States shall consist only of a legal union of a man and a woman." This clause would overrule existing marriage equality in Massachusetts and leave thousands of legally wed couples--and their children--in legal limbo.
"No court of the United States or of any State shall have jurisdiction to determine whether this Constitution or the constitution of any State requires that the legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon any union other than a legal union between one man and one woman." This clause would overrule otherwise independent state courts and constitutions, such as California's, should local laws be passed or interpreted to mandate marriage equality. Even if an individual state's citizens voted overwhelmingly in favor of such equality, the federal amendment would prevent the state from acting on the will of its citizens.
"No State shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State concerning a union between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage, or as having the legal incidents of marriage, under the laws of such other State." Although open to interpretation, this clause could overturn civil union legislation in Vermont and domestic-partnership laws elsewhere that have been prompted by a state's exercise of its own sense of responsibility to treat its citizens equally.
If passed, the Defense of Marriage Amendment would mark the first time the U.S. Constitution had been used to single out one group of Americans for unequal treatment since clauses allowing slavery were struck after the Civil War.
"Discrimination has no place in our Constitution or our public institutions," said H. Alexander Robinson, strategic director for the National Black Justice Coalition, a gay and lesbian rights group. "The U.S. Constitution has long been held to recognize individual dignity. We must not allow bigotry, fear, and prejudice to undermine this critical American value."
"Americans don't want the Constitution turned into a tool for discrimination," said Human Rights Campaign spokesman David M. Smith. "Congress should be spending its time protecting families, not ensuring their vulnerability under law."
"This amendment undermines the will of the fair-minded people in states across America who are grappling with how best to guarantee basic fairness for gay and lesbian families," said Patrick Guerriero, head of Log Cabin Republicans, a gay political group. "This new amendment is yet another attempt to undermine federalism. It's an unprecedented incursion by the federal government into the affairs of states and radically alters the traditional roles of the legislative and judicial branches of government."
He added, "With exit polls showing almost two thirds of Americans supporting some legal recognition of same-sex relationships and with 225 years of experience of allowing states to manage their own affairs, Congressman Lungren has placed himself squarely on the wrong side of history."
Under its previous name, the Federal Marriage Amendment, the pro-discrimination amendment failed in both houses of Congress in 2004.
Additional response to Lungren's call for constitutional discrimination was expected over the weekend. Politicians often propose unpopular actions on Friday afternoons because the news reaches fewer Americans on Saturdays, when newspaper circulation and television news viewership are at their lowest.