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Marriage Protection Amendment

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Location: Washington, DC


MARRIAGE PROTECTION AMENDMENT -- (House of Representatives - September 30, 2004)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 801, proceedings will now resume on the joint resolution (H.J. Res. 106) proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage.

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Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers) for yielding me this time, our distinguished ranking member on the Committee on the Judiciary. I thank him for his leadership in promoting freedom in our country and protecting our civil liberties.

Mr. Speaker, I have been married for over 41 years. I want to hear some applause for that. I am glad to see my Republican colleagues appreciate that wonderful accomplishment. I certainly respect the institution of marriage. As the mother of five and the grandmother of five, I appreciate the value of family.

My husband and I value family in our community as a source of strength to our country and a source of comfort to the people. What constitutes that family is an individual and personal decision. But it is for all a place where people find love and support. As for me, I agree with Vice President Cheney when he said, "With respect to the question of relationships, my general view is that freedom means freedom for everyone. People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to." That would be Vice President Dick Cheney, August 24, 2004.

Mr. Speaker, in the closing days of this Congress, we should be addressing the urgent needs of the American people, to be secure against the clear and present danger of terrorism, to protect our men and women in uniform whose lives are in the battle in Iraq, and to bring economic prosperity and health care to the American people. Instead, we are meeting here today about tarnishing our cherished Constitution with an amendment that purports to protect marriage but is one that benefits no one and actually limits the rights of millions of Americans.

Our Constitution, to which we all take an oath of office, is an enduring and living document that throughout our history expanded rights, not diminished them, to live up to the ideals of our Founding Fathers, that all are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As that great defender of the Constitution, the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan whose legacy graces this House, noted, "We promised liberty, freedom and equality to everyone. No one was to be excluded from the blessings of liberty."

As a result, this Nation abolished slavery, established equal protection under the law, extended the right to vote to women and ended the poll tax. Today, we consider an amendment that runs counter to that inclusiveness that underlies our history: one Nation under God, indivisible; and e pluribus unum, from many, one; and in the words of the Constitution, to form a more perfect Union.

This amendment has been brought with the full knowledge that it failed in the other body with no prospects of success, either now or in the foreseeable future, in this body. This is a partisan exercise to distract the American people from the Republicans' record of failure. And it is unworthy of a party that claims to be associated with President Lincoln, one of the greatest Presidents of the United States.

The consideration of this amendment does not call upon the better angels of our nature that President Lincoln spoke of in his first inaugural address. It calls upon the worst impulses of politics by attempting to enshrine discrimination into the Constitution and to single out a group of American citizens. And it is unworthy of a party that claims to be associated with President Lincoln once again who said in his second inaugural address, which I consider to be Lincoln's greatest speech, "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the Nation's wounds."

This amendment is malicious and is not charitable toward anyone. It is motivated by animus towards lesbians and gays. It is a sad moment that those clinging to power want to use to divide the American people for what they perceive to be an electoral advantage. I will vote against this amendment because it is counter to the noble ideals of our Nation.

On substance, the amendment is far reaching to deny all matters of rights, even beyond marriage. The proponents have disingenuously claimed that this amendment would not preclude civil unions or domestic partnerships. At the same time, organizations supporting this amendment are now using similarly worded State laws to challenge recognition of domestic partnerships in several States. And we know these organizations, which the Republican leadership is beholden to, will not stop there. Because this amendment is not limited to governmental action and would apply to all private contracts, existing rights enjoyed by same-sex couples, such as hospital visitation, inheritance rights and health care benefits would be at risk if this amendment were to pass. This amendment is dangerous, and it does not belong in our Constitution.

Throughout our careers, many of us in Congress on both sides of the aisle have fought against discrimination in every form and sought to bring people together. I will vote again against this amendment because again it is counter to the noble ideals of our Nation and of the principle of ending discrimination and unifying our country. Whatever one's view of same-sex marriage, and I know that that is a difficult issue for some, I understand that, amending the Constitution is not the place to address this issue. Let us not defile our Constitution with an amendment designed to demean a group of American citizens. Let us not use our Constitution as a political tool to divide us. We are a better country than that and that is why this amendment will fail today.

The American people will see through the motivations behind this amendment. It is to distract the American people from the record of failure of this Republican Congress, a record that has been, according to editorials today, marked by "shambling to the end of one of the lightest workloads in decades without a hint of embarrassment" and "failing at the most demanding obligations of government."

Mr. Speaker, let us strive to unite people, to seek the best in ourselves, and to attend to the grave and great issues now before us. Let us honor our Constitution, let us honor our children, let us honor all God's children. Let us follow our better angels and reject this amendment.

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