Marriage Protection Act of 2004

By:  Mary Bono Mack
Date: July 22, 2004
Location: Washington, DC


MARRIAGE PROTECTION ACT OF 2004 -- (House of Representatives - July 22, 2004)

Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, pursuant to House Resolution 734, I call up the bill (H.R. 3313) to amend title 28, United States Code, to limit Federal court jurisdiction over questions under the Defense of Marriage Act, and ask for its immediate consideration.

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Mrs. BONO. Mr. Speaker, I rise against H.R. 3313, the Marriage Protection Act, not because I seek to promote gay marriage but because I believe this bill fails to pass constitutional muster.

Perhaps it is for this reason that Congress has never enacted legislation to prohibit all federal courts, including the Supreme Court, from hearing cases on constitutional matters. It is not within the interest of this institution to begin this practice now. This path can only lead us towards a slippery slope with no clear end in sight.

I understand there are strong feelings on the issue of gay marriage on either side of the debate. I, for one, strongly believe in the sanctity of marriage and that marriage is between one man and one woman. But what this bill does is preclude even the ultimate arbiter of the United States legal system, the Supreme Court, from reviewing a constitutional matter. In fact, under this bill, even those who would seek to overturn a state's gay marriage law would not be able to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Certainly, Congress has stripped statutory questions, like tree cutting, from federal courts. But none of these issues have fallen upon constitutional grounds. Even the non-partisan Congressional Research Service maintains that "We are not aware of any precedent for a law that would deny the inferior federal courts original jurisdiction or the Supreme Court of appellate jurisdiction to review the constitutionality of a law of Congress."

However, I strongly believe in the concept of "checks and balances." Rest assured, should a federal court begin to exercise judicial activism that hijacks the powers of the other two branches, it is up to those branches of government to check the judicial branch and bring it back into balance. But this isn't the case here. In fact, one could question whether or not Congress, with this bill, would encroach upon the powers of the Supreme Court in having the final say.

As of today, our system of "checks and balances" is working. Until this environment changes or breaks down, the most positive action Congress can take is to let the system work.