Gay rights groups on Tuesday lashed out at President Bush's support for a federal amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would ban marriage rights for same-sex couples. The current amendment before Congress would not only deny marriage to same-sex couples but could also prevent any state legislature or electorate from ever voting to pass their own state's domestic partnership, civil union, or marriage laws.
It gets worse. Under the Federal Marriage Amendment, courts could be prohibited from enforcing the legal protections that a legislature provides through civil union or domestic partnership laws. Such legal incidents include hospital visitation rights, child support, health care benefits, and inheritance rights; the amendment would also ban all forms of civil marriage and civil unions for such couples. Here is what various groups had to say:
Cheryl Jacques, president, Human Rights Campaign: "To use the Constitution to discriminate against our families is un-American, shameful, and divisive. Constitutional amendments have historically served to expand liberty and equality--such as giving women the right to vote. This amendment would be the first to reinstate discrimination in our Constitution. There is no doubt in my mind that the American people will see this as an ugly and discriminatory game of politics. Americans remember the president's promise to be a uniter, not a divider. Today the president has broken that promise."
Dave Noble, executive director, National Stonewall Democrats: "The president should know that any attempt to use our families as a diversion from bloated spending and his drop in the polls will fail. President Bush fails to understand that our families are more than political red meat that he can throw before his antigay base. The president has clearly demonstrated that it is no longer acceptable for our community to merely vote against this man. Each one of us now has the responsibility to actively work to deny him a second term."
Gary Buseck, legal director, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund: "Same-sex families pose no threat to this country or to other couples. The threat to families is a proposed amendment, which would write discrimination into the Constitution for the first time ever. Our Constitution belongs to every American, and we need to keep it that way. There is no moderate way to amend the Constitution to discriminate against a group of Americans. Amending our Constitution would have a very real impact on real people's lives."
New York Democratic congressman Jerrold Nadler, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution: "It is shameful for the president to undermine this country's historic commitment to protect our citizenry's right to equal protection under the law. I take matters of constitutional integrity extremely seriously. What we are talking about is another extremely important constitutional principle: the right to ensure that all Americans are treated equally under the law. If this amendment were to pass, it would permanently deny a large group of Americans access to over 1,000 rights and responsibilities under federal law that all Americans should enjoy, including access to Social Security benefits, immigration rights, and veterans' survivor benefits."
Joan Garry, executive director, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation: "As America has watched images in the media of thousands of gay and lesbian couples who have joyfully made formal commitments to one another, they have seen something President Bush has obviously missed completely: that true equality under the law is something that every American yearns for deeply--and is entitled to. This is a day of great sadness for all Americans who believe in that principle of equality. The president's statement today calling for the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would target a group of Americans for discrimination demonstrates just how terribly out of step this administration is with what fair-minded Americans understand in their hearts."
Matt Foreman, executive director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force: "This is a despicable new low. This is nothing more than a transparent election-year ploy to use our lives and families to drive a wedge into the electorate and divert attention away from the critical issues that face our country. Marriage equality for same-sex couples harms no one. As the supreme judicial court of Massachusetts has said, 'The history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal.' Yet the president calls for just that: separate and forever unequal rights for gay Americans."
Aimee Gelnaw, executive director, Family Pride Coalition: "This election-year maneuvering should be called out for what it is--a blatant and hostile attack on our families. Despite Bush's descriptions of America as a free society, gay and lesbian couples in our country are not free when their relationships are denied legal protections. This isn't second-class status; this is no status at all."
Ralph Neas, president, People for the American Way: "This is an appalling and disgraceful move that would cause lasting damage to the values enshrined in our Constitution and very real harm to many American families. We should not allow the White House to distract the American people from issues that pose a real threat to American families, including lack of jobs, the Administration's reckless deficit and tax policies, its dismantling of constitutional checks and balances, and more. Fair-minded Americans will reject this attempt at playing politics with people's lives."
Martin Ornelas-Quintero, executive director, LLEGO, the national Latino and Latina Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Organization: "Most Americans, including most Latinos, support fair and equal treatment of all families. People throughout the country have been addressing how to provide such fair and equal treatment to families which happen to include couples of the same sex. The president declared that the federal government should dictate for the entire nation, every state, how the issue be addressed: by making same-sex couples and their families permanent second-class citizens through a constitutional amendment. This is wrong, and LLEGO opposes it in the strongest terms."
National Black Justice Coalition: "[We] strongly condemn President Bush's call for a constitutional amendment to discriminate against gays and lesbians. As the U.S. Supreme Court has stated, marriage is a basic civil right and a fundamental human right. We call on President Bush, leaders of Congress, and all elected officials to stand up for the basic principles of liberty and justice for all. The Coalition will do everything in its power to fight against this unprecedented effort to write prejudice into the Constitution."