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Premature, Unnecessary Legislation
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, (D) Texas
House Floor Statement, July 11, 1996

No one can deny that the family as an institution has changed dramatically since the days when our own parents were children. Today, there is no single definition of family that applies to all individuals. A family may be made up of two parents and their children, grandparents caring for grandchildren, single mothers or single fathers raising their children, couples without children, foster parents and foster children, or individuals of the same-sex living together and sharing their lives as a couple, how their relationships are handled should be left to the states. This legislation takes the right of the states away.

We need to respect the human rights of all these American families. We should not make laws which are based on an antiquated notion of what constitutes a family. This unnecessary legislation patently disregards the 14th Amendment provision that provides equal protection under the law to all Americans. I believe this legislation has been rushed forward with little thought and reason.

As a wife and a mother, I believe in the human family. The institution of marriage should be cherished and respected, however, same-sex relationships allow human beings to express their attitude of caring for each other. Recognized same-sex relationships simply allow individuals living together and loving each other to be entitled to the rights associated with a loving and caring relationship.

This legislation would define marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” The word spouse would refer “only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”

Never before has the federal government attempted to define either marriage or spouse. This has, and continues to be, the role of the states and they have done it well for the past 200 years. It is beyond the responsibility of the federal government to define marriage and impose that definition on the states.

Furthermore, even if (as the bill’s sponsors claim) the federal government needs to step in to clarify differing definitions between states, this legislation is premature. Same-sex marriage is not legal in any state. Hawaii is unlikely to decide the issue of same-sex marriage for at least two years, so this legislation attacks an issue which is not yet ripe. The only reasons to deal with it now is to make it a political controversy.

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