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A Despicable Bill
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, (D) New York
House Floor Statement, July 11, 1996


We began our national life by declaring that all men are created equal. We did not really mean it. We meant that all white men of property are created equal. The history of this country is largely the history of expanding that definition to all white men, to white men and black men, to white men and black men and white women and black women. We have achieved all that, but we said we want to achieve all that. We are just beginning to go down that road for gay and lesbian people. We still permit discrimination by law. We are just beginning to expand that definition, and we will.

The arguments against gay and lesbian marriage are essentially the same argument that we used to hear against black-white marriages. We had anti-miscegenation laws in this country. I have no doubt that one day we will permit in every State in this Union, and we will celebrate, gay and lesbian marriages. One day we will look back and wonder why it was ever thought controversial to allow two people who wanted to share each otherís lives in a committed, monogamous relationship to undertake the obligations and benefits of marriage, why it was ever thought that allowing gay and lesbian people to visit each other in the hospital or to share each otherís pension rights posed a threat to marriages of heterosexual people.

But the bill before us today is not designed to solve a real problem. It is designed to appeal to fear and prejudice and hatred and bigotry. It is also a fraud.

We are told we must pass this bill to protect our States from being compelled by the Constitutionís full faith and credit clause to recognize same-sex marriages entered into in Hawaii. Aside from the fact they were a year or two away from Hawaii making any such decision, the full faith and credit clause does not compel or would not compel States to do such a thing. The public policy exception that today allows New York or Connecticut to refuse to recognize a 15-year-old marriage entered into in States which permit 15-year-old marriages would permit States on public policy grounds not to recognize same-sex marriages if they choose not to. So that section of the bill is unnecessary.

But the other section of the bill, the section that defines marriage in Federal law for the first time and says to any State, ďNo matter what you do, whether you do it by referendum or by public decision or by legislative action, the Federal Government wonít recognize a marriage contracted in your state if we donít like the definition. We are going to trample the Statesí rights,í shows exactly where this bill is coming from. We are going to say those are second-class marriages because we overruled New York or Connecticut or Hawaii or whoever decides to do that.Ē

Why do we want to start down the road of a Federal marriage law? This bill, Mr. Chairman, defends against a nonexistent threat. Marriages in this country are threatened by a 50 percent divorce rate, by drugs, by alcoholism, by gambling, by immaturity, by lots of things, but not by allowing gay or lesbian couples to formalize their relationships and pursue their happiness.

Mr. Chairman, this is a despicable bill, and I urge its defeat.


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