Thursday, July 22, 2004 - Apache Junction, Arizona, USA
We all know that the anti-gay marriage amendment to our federal Constitution was defeated in the Senate last week. Your president, and his Republican partners will not take no for an answer, however.
What are the up to now? Supported by George W. Bush, the House Republicans voted 233-194 on H.R. 3313 to supercede the Constitution in a way that is so unconstitutional, such an unprecedented attack on the checks and balances installed in that document at its conception, it staggers the mind that a political party could bring such a bill to vote, let alone allow it to pass. I quote from the Congressional Record:
Mr. RYUN (R) of Kansas. “Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the proposed Federal marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Marriage for thousands of years has been between one man and one woman. This body passed the Defense of Marriage Act, along with 38 State legislatures. Yet in recent years, courts and other government authorities have actually worked against these efforts to protect marriage. Today, because of local government authorities, homosexual couples are able to be married in certain States and cities in our country. It will not be long until a couple will try to force another State to recognize this marriage; and sooner or later, they will find a Federal judge who will side with them. Congress must take a stand now against these efforts to thwart the will of Congress, State legislatures, and the American people. Thus far, Federal law has not stopped courts from ruling in favor of these illegal unions. Organizations have challenged DOMA in arenas that further remove the decision-making process from the general public and their elected representatives, barring the majority of Americans from being heard during the process. We should support efforts to block Federal judges from overriding DOMA, but only the Federal marriage amendment can protect the American people's will from being silenced once and for all.”
Note that NO federal court has ever ruled on the constitutionality of DOMA. In fact, the issue of gay marriage has yet to be brought up in a federal court.
This bill would strip the Supreme Court and other federal courts of their jurisdiction to rule on challenges to state bans on gay marriages under a provision of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act. That law defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and says states are not compelled to recognize gay marriages that take place in other states.
What this means is if you are gay or lesbian, you would be barred from going into federal court to seek to have your marriage recognized. It is the courts, not congress that has the last say as to what is constitutional and what is not.
This is the most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed in the House. Why? Suppose the next bill says that federal courts can not rule on the constitutionality of freedom of religion? Or they take away the federal court’s ability to rule on the constitutionality of segregation issues? Tammy Baldwin, the House’s lone lesbian voice said, “We face no less than a sign on the courthouse door saying, ‘You may not defend your constitutional rights in this court.’ Today, the ‘you’ is gay and lesbian citizens. But who would be next?”
Cheryl Jacques, president of the Human Rights Campaign said, "On a day when Congress was told to focus on terrorism, it is a shame that they instead focused on discrimination," Jacques said, referring to Thursday's release of the final report of the Sept. 11 Commission.
Republicans and conservative Christians welcomed the legislation, however. "Judicial activism has reached a crisis," said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council welcomed the bill saying, "It provides us the opportunity to isolate some of these judicial rewrites of marriage. Until we can get an amendment to the Constitution, this will keep it from spreading." Federal judges, unelected and given lifetime appointments, “must not be allowed to rewrite marriage policy for the states,” Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., said.
How far was the Repubo rhetoric willing to go? Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., the bill's author, likened the Supreme Court to the Soviet Politburo. “As few as five people in black robes can look at a particular issue and determine for the rest of us, insinuate for the rest of us that they are speaking as the majority will. They are not. Simply put, if federal courts don't have jurisdiction over marriage issues, they can't hear them. And if they can't hear cases regarding marriage policy, they can't redefine this sacred institution,” Hostettler said. Apparently Representative Hostettler is unaware that the U.S. Constitution grants federal courts EXACTLY that right and for very good reason.
Democrats simply called it another Republican political ploy. “They couldn't amend the Constitution last week so they're trying to desecrate and circumvent the Constitution this week,” Representative Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said. They feel the bill will not survive in the closely divided Senate. "Today, it's gay marriage. Tomorrow, it could be something else. It's very dangerous for any Congress to move down this road," said Representative John Lewis, D-Ga., a civil rights leader.
But survive or not, Americans need to recognize what a few Republican legislators are trying to do. First they took away some constitutional rights with the Patriot Act. Now they want to destroy the checks and balances put in the Constitution by its creators. These people need to be voted out of Congress. Enough is enough.
©2004 Marcia Ellen "Happy" Beevre