Invoking President Lincoln’s Legacy to Support Discrimination Is Offensive, Says Nation’s Largest Civil Rights Coalition

Categories: Press Releases

For Immediate Release
Contact: Shin Inouye, 202.869.0398, inouye@civilrights.org

Washington, D.C. – Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), issued the following statement today responding to the recent comments of Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and far-right groups in support of a constitutional amendment that would mark the first time the U.S. Constitution has been amended to require discrimination. The comments compared eradicating discrimination against blacks to requiring discrimination against gays and lesbians.

“Comparing an effort to write discrimination into the U.S. Constitution to overturning the infamous Dred Scott case, which denied basic civil rights to African-Americans, is the height of hypocrisy,” said Henderson. “I would hope Governor Romney and others would think twice before making such foolish statements again,” continued Henderson. “Invoking President Lincoln in support of an effort that would write bigotry into the Constitution greatly tarnishes the legacy of one of this nation’s greatest presidents.”

In a February 5 Wall Street Journal opinion column, Governor Romney wrote:


With the Dred Scott case, decided four years before he took office, President Lincoln faced a judicial decision that he believed was terribly wrong and badly misinterpreted the U.S. Constitution. Here is what Lincoln said: “If the policy of the government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.” By its decision, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts circumvented the Legislature and the executive, and assumed to itself the power of legislating. That’s wrong.


Governor Romney’s sentiments were echoed by Sandy Rios, president of Concerned Women of America, who in a press release called a “public action alert,” compared her attempt to codify anti-gay prejudice through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to the battle to end slavery. Rios wrote:


“One way to solve that problem is with a constitutional amendment. That’s controversial and it’s extremely tough to do. But, it could be effective. I have felt from the beginning that if we’re going to go that route, we must fight for an amendment with effective language that will meet the need. When slavery was abolished, we didn’t just ban the word ‘slavery’ and allow some form of slavery as long as you called it something else.”


Said Henderson, “The proposed constitutional amendment is contrary 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.”