Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), a senior member of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, issued the following statement today on the eve of the U.S. Supreme Court's consideration of two cases involving marriage equality for same-sex couples:
"This week the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two important cases involving marriage equality. I urge the Court to continue its traditional role of being the guardian of individual liberties and the body that protects and expands the constitutional rights of the people guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, and the Equal Protection and Due Processes Clauses.
"I urge the Court, therefore, to uphold the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Hollingsworth v. Perry declaring California's Proposition 8 to be an impermissible infringement on the equal rights of gay and lesbian persons to marry. I also urge the Court to uphold the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in United States v. Windsor, which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) because it unconstitutionally defines the term marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife" and spouse as "a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife" and renders same-sex couples who are lawfully married under state law ineligible for more than 1,138 federal rights, benefits and protections."
"The greatness of America lies in its history of expanding rights and liberties to its people. At its founding, for example, the right to vote was limited to propertied white males. Over time, the franchise was extended to women, and persons of color, and the young. There was a time in our history that segregation and discrimination based on race was the law of the land. That time came and passed because the nation, led in large part by the Supreme Court, was challenged to live up to the true meaning of its creed that all men are created equal. And those decisions of the Court have made our country better.
"The fight for marriage equality presents another challenge for the nation and an opportunity to perfect our union by expanding freedom and liberty and putting an end to centuries of unequal treatment and discrimination. I believe the time has come for the Supreme Court to declare that the U.S. Constitution recognizes and protects loving, committed same-sex couples who want to marry for the same reasons as their straight counterparts. The desire that loving couples have to commit their lives to each other is a universal aspect of the human condition and is not now, and never has been, limited to couples of the same religion or race or gender. As Justice William O. Douglas stated nearly 50 years ago in the landmark case of Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 486 (1965), about the importance of marriage to human beings:
"We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights -- older than our political parties, older than our school system. Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions."
"Throughout my public life I have stood firmly on the side of expanded freedom and opportunity and have fought to eradicate discrimination and inequality. That is why I urge the Court to declare unconstitutional California's Proposition 8 and Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act."