Press Room

March 03, 2004

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NAACP Testifies Before Senate Subcommittee Hearing Opposing Discriminatory Consitutional Ban on Marr

Nation's Oldest and Largest Grassroots Civil Rights Organization Announces Strong Opposition to Amendment that Would Discriminate and Restrict Rights

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign applauded the testimony of Hilary Shelton, director of the Washington bureau of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People today before a Senate subcommittee hearing. Shelton announced the group's strong opposition to a constitutional ban on marriage rights for same-sex couples.

"Our elected officials should heed the testimony of one of our nation's foremost civil rights organizations - denying rights to Americans has no place in our nation's Constitution," said HRC President Cheryl Jacques, who submitted written testimony. "As Mr. Shelton spoke, a room full of families listened - families who would clearly be hurt by such an amendment. Denying those hard-working, tax-paying Americans equal rights under the law is wrong, and using the Constitution to single out those families for discrimination would be un-American."

"The NAACP is greatly disappointed that President George Bush and others have decided to enter this election cycle by endorsing an amendment that would forever write discrimination into the U.S. Constitution, rather than focusing on the crucial problems and challenges that affect the lives of all of us," testified Shelton. "At a time of record high unemployment, diminishing job prospects, a ballooning budget deficit that is choking our economy and crucial social service programs, a public school system that is in great need of attention and a health care system that is failing over 43 million Americans that remain uninsured over the past three years. This discriminatory constitutional amendment appears to be nothing more than a highly divisive political ploy to distract the country from focusing on our overabundance of real problems and our tremendous lack of creative and effective solutions."

The hearing was held by the Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on the Constitution, civil rights and property rights. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, presided over the hearing, along with ranking member Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc. Other minority members who attended were Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. Two other witnesses - Lea Brilmayer, Yale University professor of Law, and Chuck Muth, founder of Citizen Outreach - also spoke in opposition to a discriminatory amendment.

"We applaud Senators Feingold, Durbin, Kennedy and Leahy for their leadership in the hearing today," said Jacques. "And we sincerely thank Senators Chafee and Dayton for showing bipartisan opposition to the amendment at a press conference earlier this morning."

Sens. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., and Mark Dayton, D-Minn., joined a broad range of individuals speaking in opposition to amendment at a press conference before the hearing. Manuel Mirabel, chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, announced the group's opposition to the amendment, saying it is "divisive, discriminatory and seeks to treat one group of citizens differently from everybody else."

Heather McCabe and Staci Winters of Maryland, who have been together for 11 years and are mothers of 4-year-old triplets, also spoke at the press conference.

"Make no mistake, this amendment would not protect my children," said Winters. "There are more than 1 million children like Sam, Cole and Annabel - children being raised in loving homes headed by same-sex couples. Every respected child welfare group has said these parents are just as good as other parents. This amendment, though, would ensure that these parents are forever denied important legal protections that come with marriage."

"We will work to ensure that no child is left behind by our nation's Constitution," added Jacques.

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.

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