Civil Rights Coalition Speaks Out Against Writing Discrimination Into the U.S. Constitution

Media 02.11,04

Washington, D.C. – Nancy Zirkin, deputy director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, issued the following statement today in opposition to calls for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the “Federal Marriage Amendment,” that would prohibit states from allowing gays and lesbians to marry.

“The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, opposes any attempt, such as the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, to amend the United States Constitution to limit the rights of its citizens,” Zirkin stated. “This amendment would turn 225 years of Constitutional history on its head by discriminatorily intruding into the traditional authority of states in matters of family law.

“The amendment is also antithetical to the Constitution’s guiding principle to provide equal protection for all. It proposes to use one of our nation’s most revered documents as a tool of exclusion, amending the Constitution to restrict the rights of a group of Americans for the first time in history. The proposed amendment would not only prohibit states from granting equal marriage rights to same-sex couples, but apparently seeks also to deprive same-sex couples and their families of fundamental protections such as hospital visitation, inheritance rights, and health care benefits, whether conveyed through marriage or other legally recognized relationships, running afoul of basic principles of fairness as well as causing harm to real children and real families.

“Amending the Constitution is a measure that is rarely used, and it is only done to address a great public policy need. Since the Bill of Rights’ adoption in 1791, the Constitution has only been amended seventeen times. The Constitution itself, and subsequent amendments, were designed to protect and expand individual liberties. It has been amended to abolish slavery, and give women and young people the right to vote. It should not be used to single out some Americans for discrimination.

“Many of the major civil rights advances of the last century have resulted from the judicial branch stepping in to ensure that all Americans are provided equal protection under the law. From Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 to Loving v. Virginia in 1967, the courts have provided a necessary and constitutional check on governmental abuses of power and violations of individual rights. Adopting this amendment would take away the constitutional power of the courts to protect individual rights.

“Clearly President Bush will stop at nothing to please his Right Wing base, even seeking to use the Constitution to restrict the individual rights of American citizens. The whole idea of America is to provide each citizen with inalienable rights. All of a sudden the Constitution will be used to take rights away.”