Nadler Blasts Republican Effort to Strip Supreme Court of Jurisdiction in Cases Involving Same-Sex Marriage Law

Jul 21, 2004

Washington, DC -- Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, today led the opposition in the House of Representatives to legislation that would strip jurisdiction from all federal courts, including the Supreme Court, of any cases involving the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Representative John Hostettler (R-IN) introduced the legislation, the so-called "Marriage Protection Act," which Nadler blasted as unnecessary, unconstitutional, and an election year political ploy. Despite the political importance placed on this vote by the House Republican Leadership and the White House, the bill passed by a narrow margin of 233-194.

"On the day that the 9-11 Commission released its report, the Republican leadership of this House has decided to devote more than two hours to an unconstitutional bill dealing with a problem that doesn't exist, and court decisions that haven't been handed down," said Nadler. "One would think that a lesbian or gay couple living out their years peacefully and happily were a greater threat to the future of the United States than al Qaeda. Is this bill more important than fighting terrorism, creating jobs, providing health care, fixing our schools, or dealing with the situation in Iraq? The Republican leadership seems to think so."

The bill would strip all federal courts, including the Supreme Court, of the ability to judge the constitutionality of a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act that gives states the power to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed under the laws of other states. No court has ruled on the constitutionality of DOMA.

The equal protection, due process and separation of powers problems with the bill makes it likely that the Supreme Court would find the bill unconstitutional. Nadler pointed out that Congress has never in the history of the nation closed the entire federal court system, including the Supreme Court, to a Constitutional challenge to law. The legislation far exceeds Congress' authority and would destroy the ability of the independent judiciary to enforce Constitutional rights.

"This bill sets a dangerous precedent. If the Congress can prevent the federal courts from applying the Constitution to any subject matter, then a bill of rights will be no more than a puff of smoke. It will be unpopular minorities -- whether religious minorities, political minorities, lesbians or gays, or whoever is unpopular at the moment -- who will lose their rights," said Nadler.