Civil Rights Coalition Says, “Don’t Write Discrimination into the U.S. Constitution”

Media 07.14.04

WASHINGTON – The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, applauded the U.S. Senate today for blocking a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would restrict the rights and freedoms of American citizens. LCCR strongly opposed the “Federal Marriage Amendment” (FMA) because, for the first time in history, it would use the Constitution to restrict rather than expand rights.

“LCCR believes that this highly divisive amendment is a dangerous and unnecessary approach to resolving the ongoing debate over same-sex marriage,” stated Wade Henderson, LCCR executive director. “It would turn 225 years of Constitutional history on its head by requiring that states actually restrict the civil rights of their own citizens.”

Before today’s vote, LCCR sent a letter, co-signed by 50 civil and human rights organizations, urging the Senate to defeat the FMA. “The issue of same-sex marriage is an extremely difficult and sensitive one, and people of good will can and do have heartfelt differences of opinion on the matter,” the letter stated. “However, LCCR strongly believes that there are right and wrong ways to address the issue as a matter of public policy, and is extremely concerned about any proposal that would alter our nation’s most important document for the direct purpose of excluding any individuals from its guarantees of equal protection.”

LCCR also sharply criticized a key argument made by proponents of the amendment: “Supporters of the FMA like to cite ‘judicial activism,’ in cases involving the rights of gays and lesbians, as a reason to alter the Constitution. But terms like ‘judicial activism’ are truly alarming to the civil rights community, as they have routinely been used to attack judges who made courageous civil rights rulings,” Henderson continued. “When Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the unanimous Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, for example, defenders of segregation cried ‘judicial activism’ across the country and called for Warren’s impeachment. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Loving v. Virginia in 1967, which invalidated a state anti-miscegenation law, resulted in similar attacks. Fortunately, our nation avoided taking any radical measures against the so-called ‘judicial activists’ or their decisions, and Congress ought to show a similar level of restraint here.”

“Clearly, some individuals in the Senate leadership will stop at nothing to please their right wing base, even using the Constitution in an effort to scapegoat fellow American citizens and restrict their rights,” Henderson concluded. “At a time when our nation has far too many great and pressing issues that continue to be ignored by this Congress, our nation simply cannot afford to exert time and energy on such a divisive and discriminatory proposal. In the few days of legislative business that remain this year, we implore Congress to focus on the critical needs facing our country.”