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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

HRC News

NEWS from the Human Rights Campaign
For Immediate Release - May 17, 2006

Contact: Brad Luna | Phone: 202/216-1514 | Cell: 202/812-8140
Contact: Jay S. Brown | Phone: 202/216-1580 | Cell: 202/716-1650

Senate Committee Expected to Push Forward Discriminatory Amendment Tomorrow

"With gas prices hitting $3 a gallon, millions living without health care, a broken immigration system and an endless war in Iraq, Congress should be helping make America stronger, not weaker by trying to put discrimination in the United States Constitution," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "Whether 40 pages or 1 sentence, any amendment that writes discrimination into the Constitution is wrong."

WASHINGTON - The Federal Marriage Amendment (S.J. Res. 1) is scheduled to be marked up tomorrow at 9 a.m. in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Earlier this year, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Senator Bill Frist announced that the Senate would vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment during the week of June 5.

"With gas prices hitting $3 a gallon, millions living without health care, a broken immigration system and an endless war in Iraq, Congress should be helping make America stronger, not weaker by trying to put discrimination in the United States Constitution," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "Tampering with the Constitution in order to pander to a political base is wrong, and all fair-minded Americans should call their members of Congress to speak out against the Federal Marriage Amendment. "

Republicans have made it clear that they will use the vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment to drive their base vote.

As introduced by Senator Wayne Allard, the amendment currently reads: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman."

However, sources from the Hill are anticipating the amendment will be altered before it comes up for a vote on the floor, deleting the second sentence in an attempt to attract more votes. The far right's increasing discontent with the administration and Congressional leadership is fueling the push for this amendment. Essentially, it comes down to trying to ban marriages and civil unions outright or leaving it vaguer and trying to get civil unions banned through court rulings.

"Whether 40 pages or 1 sentence, any amendment that writes discrimination into the Constitution is wrong," added Solmonese. "People want Congress focused on things like rising gas prices and health care affordability, not writing Americans out of their own Constitution."

In 2004, the Senate and House both fell far short of the two-thirds vote necessary to send the amendment to the states for ratification. In the Senate, the vote against cloture was 50 to 48, with six Republicans voting no. The Republicans who opposed cloture were Senators Campbell, Chafee, Collins, McCain, Snowe and Sununu. In the House, the vote was 227 to 186.

Many prominent Republicans and conservatives expressed opposition to the amendment in 2004, including Vice President Cheney, Arlen Specter, Rudy Guiliani, Chuck Hagel, David Dreier, George Pataki, Bob Barr, Alan Simpson, George Will, and David Brooks. This year, those numbers increased to former Senator Danforth who called the amendment, "silly" and "contrary to basic Republican principles." Also, First Lady Laura Bush was recently quoted as saying, "I don't think it should be used as a campaign tool, obviously."

After it was announced that Senator McCain would deliver the commencement address at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, the many media stories prompted McCain to reaffirm his opposition to the amendment several times.

Along with McCain's reaffirmation, other Senators such as Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have expressed their concern about spending time on a Federal Marriage Amendment when Republicans are losing in the polls while average Americans are facing the greatest challenges of our generation. Senator Graham was quoted in a recent New York Times article as saying, "Gay marriage is not the magic bullet to get us out of our situation."

In response to a letter sent by Bill Frist in late April outlining the Federal Marriage Amendment as a key vote, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said, "We owe it to the American people to focus on their needs, and not waste a single day focusing on partisan needs. That means setting aside an issue like the marriage amendment, and tackling the issue of gas prices instead."

A long list of African-American leaders has spoken out against the amendment. Coretta Scott King told college students once that "a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay-bashing. ... Instead of trivializing the Constitution, we need some laws that give families the kind of help they really need, like job-training and child care assistance, stronger schools and health insurance coverage for every family." Julian Bond, Congressman John Lewis, Rev. Andrew Young, Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun, Leonard Pitts, Rev. Peter Gomes and Dr. Henry Louis Gates have all been public in their strong opposition to the amendment. The NAACP also opposes the Federal Marriage Amendment and testified against the amendment in 2004.

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that LGBT Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

Personally, I think great ads could be made with Laura Bush's words.

The anti-gay AFA is having a cow over Laura Bush's statements.

The president of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania (AFA of Pennsylvania) says federal and state amendments protecting traditional marriage should be a campaign issue, regardless of what First Lady Laura Bush says.

Last week on "Fox News Sunday," Mrs. Bush commented that although Americans do want to debate marriage amendments, the issue should be addressed with "a lot of sensitivity" and should not be used as a campaign tool. However, AFA of Pennsylvania president Diane Gramley feels the suggestion from the First Lady is not sound campaign advice -- especially for pro-family candidates.

Gramley feels it is tragic that Mrs. Bush does not see the importance of making the marriage amendment a campaign issue. Marriage is of essential significance to America's citizens, the Pennsylvania pro-family leader says, "because it is the foundation of the nation and of any society -- and that is one of the main issues that got the values voters out in 2004."

But now, the family values advocate asserts, many Christians who voted for President George W. Bush and other conservative candidates in the last elections are still waiting for confirmation that their marriage protection concerns are being addressed by the people they helped to put in office. Although a number of states have passed marriage protection measures, many conservatives feel the Bush administration has been sending mixed signals about its support for a proposed federal Marriage Protection Amendment.

Most Americans want traditional marriage -- that is, marriage defined as the union of one man and one woman -- protected, Gramley contends. She says elected U.S. officials at both the state and federal levels need to pass the marriage amendments that are before them so the people can vote on how they want marriage defined.

"Mrs. Bush, of all people, should see that it's been a very important issue," the AFA of Pennsylvania president observes, "and that politicians should stand up for marriage and should support the marriage amendments and voice their support for the marriage amendments during this campaign."

A proposed marriage protection amendment goes before Pennsylvania voters next month. While some opponents have argued in favor of "marriage rights" for homosexuals, Gramley insists that same-sex marriage is not a civil rights issue and that there is nothing discriminatory about the Pennsylvania Marriage Protection Amendment or its proposed federal counterpart.

For once, John Aravosis has a point. John is talking about Mary Cheney's book:

In the book Mary makes clear that lots and lots and LOTS of Republican aides came into her office, closed the door, and told her how awful they thought this anti-gay constitutional amendment was. Mary was their friend, and they didn't want to do ANYTHING to hurt their friend. Does anyone in the religious right REALLY think ANY of those staffers are pulling the extra hours to help make gay-bashing a high priority in the Mary Cheney White House? I don't think so.

And you just saw Mary's influence on Laura Bush. Does anyone really believe that it's a coincidence that Laura Bush is speaking out rather unfavorably on the religious right gay-bashing agenda the same week that Mary Cheney's "I'm a lesbian and dad thinks it's okay" book comes out? Please.

Minnesota for Marriage was on KKMS today asking people to come down to the capitol to encourage the legislature to pass the Bachmann amendment. Steve Sviggum was also a guest today. A podcast should be available tomorrow.