Washington, D.C. –Today, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement for the markup of H.R. 677, the 21st Century President Act:
"H.R. 677, the "21st Century President Act," modernizes current law criminalizing threats against former presidents and their families by removing gendered terms from the statute.
"This provision, section 879 of title 18, was enacted in 1982, in the aftermath of John Hinckley Jr.'s attempt on the life of then-President Ronald Reagan. Section 879 makes it unlawful to threaten to kill, kidnap or inflict bodily harm upon a former President; President-elect, or Vice President-elect; or a major candidate for President, or Vice President, or their 'immediate family' member.
"The statute, however, defines "immediate family" with terms such as "wife," "her," and "widow"—which presumes the President will always be a man married to a woman.When the law was enacted, in using these terms, Congress did not account for issues of gender equality, an area in which we have made important—though incomplete—progress.
"At present, one member of the LGBTQ community and 6 women have declared themselves to be candidates for the presidency. Whether or not any one of these candidates is nominated or elected, it is clear that the terminology in the statute is outdated and should be changed to refer to the "spouse" of a former president.
"I want to thank Representative Mark Pocan for identifying this anachronism in the law and for introducing this bill to rectify it. HR 677 will indeed take this law into the 21st Century.
"Therefore, I support this bill and I urge my colleagues to do the same."
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