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Nadler: Same-Sex Marriage Not A Threat To Traditional Marriage

Washington, DC, April 21, 2004
Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, today made the following statement at a hearing entitled "Legal Threats to Traditional Marriage":

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Today we continue with our second in a series of five hearings on the question of same-sex marriage. Today’s hearing is, curiously, entitled "Legal Threats to Traditional Marriage."

I’ve had a difficult time explaining to my colleagues what this hearing is about. Indeed, I was, at first, perplexed.

Would this hearing be about no-fault divorce? Legalized fornication? The failure of states to incarcerate adulterers?

No. Evidently, the threat to marriage is the fact that there are thousands of people in this country who very much believe in marriage, who very much want to marry, and who may not marry under the laws of this country.

That’s the threat? Allowing people who want to marry the right to marry? It’s a good thing Congress has addressed all the civil rights problems in this country so we can consider this sort of thing.

I’ve been searching in vain for some indication of what might happen to my marriage, or to the marriage of anyone in this room, if loving couples, including couples with children, are permitted to enjoy the blessings of matrimony.

This discriminatory law is being questioned around the country, not just by one or two judges in a scary place like Massachusetts, but in many communities. Attitudes are changing, and perhaps, that is the source of some of the hysteria.

The overheated rhetoric we have been hearing is reminiscent of they bellicose fear-mongering that followed the Supreme Court’s decision in Loving v. Virginia, which struck down state prohibitions against interracial marriage. The Supreme Court had overstepped its authority; the Supreme Court had overridden the democratic will of the majority; the Supreme Court had signed the death warrant for all that is good and pure in the nation.

Fortunately, we survived as a nation, and we are better for it.

In the not-too-distant future, people will look back on these hearings and try to understand what motivated this activity. Why were people so afraid? Why couldn’t people understand that the Constitution exists to protect the rights of unpopular minorities against the majority? Why couldn’t - at the very least - the Subcommittee on the Constitution grasp this not-so-subtle point?

There are many loving families who deserve the benefits and protections of the law. They don’t just live in New York, or San Francisco, or Boston. They live in every one of the 435 Congressional Districts in the United States.

They are not aliens, they are not a public menace, and they don’t threaten anyone. They are our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends, our siblings, parents, and children. They deserve to be treated fairly. They deserve to have the same rights as every other family.

I welcome our witnesses today, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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