Blumenauer Stands Up for Equal Rights

October 22, 2003
Press Release
Washington, DC — Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) issued the following statement today in reaction to the Defense of Marriage Act legislation that passed in 1996.

“In my thirty years as an elected official, the evolution of the gay and lesbian civil rights issue has touched my notion of fairness and government in very profound ways.

“Although I have a strong belief that equality for gays and lesbian is an issue of justice for us all, regardless of our sexual orientation or political philosophy, eight years ago I voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

“Looking back eight years later, I now feel that my vote was wrong. While my analysis may have been accurate and my vote may have even been the best political move, it remains one of the few votes I’ve made in Congress that I would change. Sadly, people who choose to exploit fear and bigotry based on sexual orientation continue to do so regardless of any efforts to diffuse the issue. In fact, the passage of DOMA only made some gay bashers even bolder in their hypocrisy.

“Recently, civil rights victories in the U.S. Supreme Court, Vermont, and Canada have created a resurgence of the controversy surrounding gay and lesbian marriages. These successes do not have to lead to more anti-gay proposals and rhetoric; most Americans today have friends or relatives who are involved with same-sex relationships based on the same deep emotional commitment and affection found in the heterosexual community. Unfortunately, despite their increasing acceptance by commercial media, by the marketplace, by almost all thoughtful employers, and even by the Supreme Court, same-sex relationships remain the target of discrimination.

“It is now time for Congress to play a constructive role in affirming civil rights for gays and lesbians. After eight years of refusing to grant even a hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), the House should now make it a priority to enact this important legislation. Non-discrimination in employment should be one of the bedrocks of a society that claims to value self-reliance and the opportunity for individuals to reach their full potential.

“Congress should also forcefully reject H.J. Res.56, which proposes a Constitutional Amendment that would define marriage solely as the union between a man and a woman. Tragically, this same legislation would also prohibit states, local governments and the courts from conferring legal rights or civil unions to gay or lesbian couples. It simply makes no sense to deny the benefits, legal rights and opportunities afforded to married couples to others who want to commit to a long term, loving relationship – and it is particularly galling to do so when the administration proposes to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in a curious exercise to ‘promote marriage’. This attempt to pre-empt decisions at the state level is not just stunningly hypocritical; it will fuel fear and prejudice, creating further divisions in our communities and intolerance throughout our society.

“It’s time for Congress to recognize gays and lesbians as people who deserve the same basic and civil rights afforded to every other person, whether in the work place or at home. Disagreement with a person’s religion, sexual orientation, or cultural background does not entitle the US Congress – or anyone - the right to suppress them. Instead of pitting citizen against citizen over questions of identity, sexuality, and private behavior, Congress should model the behavior it expects from others: fairness, tolerance, and a basic respect for human dignity.”

Congress awaits the Federal Marriage Amendment Act of 2003 that would prevent equal rights for same-sex relationships.