A Constitutional Amendment to Deny Marriage Rights: Extreme and Extremely Harmful

A Memo to Journalists from Ralph G. Neas

According to published reports, President George W. Bush is on the verge of announcing his support for a constitutional amendment that would force states to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. Amending the U.S. Constitution, the foundation of our freedom, to require states to discriminate against some Americans is an extreme act that would set a dangerous and shameful historical precedent. It would fly in the face of decades of hard-fought efforts by civil rights activists to ensure that every American is entitled to equal treatment under the law. White House moves to embrace such an amendment signal an alarming willingness to seek short-term political advantage regardless of the long-term cost to American lives, communities, and values.

If President Bush does embrace a first-ever constitutional amendment requiring discrimination against a group of Americans, he will almost certainly attempt to sugarcoat the situation with soothing words about compassion and respect for the people and families that will be irreparably harmed by his actions. The White House is trying to have it both ways – to mollify anti-gay zealots who make up an important part of the president’s political base without alienating more moderate voters. But rhetoric about “respect” must not be allowed to obscure the basic fact that using the Constitution to force states to discriminate against same-sex couples is a radical act that would damage our social fabric just as surely as it would hurt committed couples and their children and families.

There is no “moderate” way to write discrimination into the Constitution. There is no “respectful” way to amend the Constitution – the foundation of our freedom – to permanently assign one group of Americans to second-class citizenship. There is no “compassionate” way to deny the children of gay parents the stability and legal protections that can only be offered by marriage.

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