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Taking Away States’ Rights
Rep. Sam Farr, (D) California
House Floor Statement, July 11, 1996


I cannot believe that we call ourselves lawmakers. I think we fail to ask ourselves what is broke here that needs fixing. Our country has just gone through 220 years without Federal law on marriages. Think about it. We do not have Federal a marriage license. People get married under State law. Some States allow people to marry cousins. Some States allow persons committing statutory rape to have the rape dropped if they marry the person. States do not regulate how many times someone can get married, they do not regulate how many times someone can get a divorce.

So why is this bill called the “Defense of Marriage Act?” It does not improve marriages, and it takes away States’ rights.

This bill is not about marriage, because the Federal Government does not marry people. This bill is about meanness, it is about taking away States’ right to enact a law that would allow an elderly man or an elderly woman, maybe a grandmother, even someone’s grandfather, from receiving the benefits or giving benefits to a caretaker of the same sex who they may marry for only the reasons of being able to inherit property. It says that the only way someone can leave Social Security benefits or medical care benefits or Federal estate tax deductions is if they married someone of the opposite sex. Elderly people often live together with friends of the same sex. If a State wants to honor that arrangement for tax benefit purposes equal to marriage, this bill would ban it.

My wife and I have raised our daughter in a loving supportive relationship. Our daughter recently asked us, “Why is your generation so homophobic?” I told her that it was the last civil rights battle in America. She said, “I hope you solve it because our generation, it’s no big deal.”

Let us listen to our elderly, let us listen to our youth; make laws that help people, not hurt them. Reject this mean-spirited bill.

Women could not own property. There could not be marriage between the races. Many things change over time, Mr. Chairman. This, too, is going to change.

I would like to pay tribute, special personal tribute to the gentleman from Georgia [Mr. Lewis], to Dr. King, to all those of both parties and no parties. There was nothing partisan about that movement; there is and ought never to be anything partisan about this, the final chapter in the history of the civil rights of this country.

I wish I could remember, I used to know the entirety of that “I Have a Dream” speech, but we will rise up and live out the full meaning of our Creator. It may not be this year and it certainly will not be this Congress, but it will happen. As I said earlier, we can embrace that change and welcome it, or we can resist it, but there is nothing on God’s Earth that we can do to stop it.


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