Civil Rights Coalition urges congress to reject radical “court-stripping” measure

Media 07.21,04

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, strongly urged the U.S. House of Representatives to defeat a proposed bill, the “Marriage Protection Act of 2004,” (H.R. 3313) that would strip federal courts of any ability to hear cases involving the interpretation of the “Defense of Marriage Act of 1996” (DOMA).

LCCR characterized H.R. 3313 as dangerous, unnecessary, divisive, and like the “Federal Marriage Amendment” that was recently rejected by the Senate, little more than a distraction from the many urgent matters facing our nation.

“LCCR strongly opposes any proposal that would eliminate access to the federal judiciary for any group of Americans,” stated Wade Henderson, executive director of LCCR. “For over 50 years, the federal courts have played an indispensable role in the interpretation and enforcement of civil rights laws. When Congress has sought to prevent the courts from exercising this role, such efforts ultimately tend to do little more than enshrine discrimination in the law. Fortunately, in most instances, cooler heads prevail.” For example, Henderson pointed out that some Members of Congress tried – but failed – to strip federal courts of jurisdiction to hear cases involving school desegregation in the 1970s.

“In addition, H.R. 3313 is completely unnecessary,” Henderson continued. “It is a solution in search of a problem. Not a single court has yet to rule on the constitutionality of DOMA, and even if a court were to strike it down, there are many who think DOMA is not even necessary to begin with, because of the public policy exception to the Full Faith and Credit Clause.”

Henderson concluded by pointing out that “court-stripping” measures, even if only directed at one minority group, ultimately harm all Americans. “The judicial branch has often been the sole protector of the rights of minority groups against the will of the popular majority. Any proposal to interfere with this role would set a dangerous precedent. Allowing the courthouse doors to be closed to one minority group, as H.R. 3313 would do to gays and lesbians, is not only unjustified in itself, but will also set a dangerous precedent that will ultimately weaken the rights of any other groups that may be forced to turn to the courts for justice.”