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Awesome Task of Matchmaking for All Citizens
Rep. Jim McDermott
Congressional Record, July 11, 1996

Mr. Chairman, I rise to marvel at the wisdom of Congress. We have done such a wonderful job over these past two years that we are ready to take on the awesome task of matchmaking for all citizens of the United States.

The legislation we are debating now dictates to them who they can love and spend their lives with in order to benefit from the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the legal benefits of our laws — civil laws governing marriage and divorce that have previously been the province of the States.

Have we nothing better to do with our time?

Marriage is a personal matter. Marriage is about two people coming together to love and support each other. Why should Congress interfere in this very personal decision?

It was less than 30 years ago that our courts ruled it unconstitutional for the States to ban marriage between persons of different ethnic backgrounds. Have we learned so little in the last 30 years?

This bill has nothing to do with family values or protecting the institution of marriage. It is a political game to obscure the real issues behind the failure of marriages and to divide Americans in an election year.

It is an attempt to fan the coals of bigotry and hatred to try to gain a few votes. The institution of marriage will not be saved or strengthened by increasing hate between our citizens.

This is not a religious issue. Each of the numerous religions practiced in America is free to perform the rites of marriage in accordance with its tenets.

Many marriages between persons of the same gender have been blessed by their religions — in all 50 states. This is purely and simply a civil matter — whether the Federal Government should decide for its citizens which of these unions to recognize and with whom citizens may share their vows of marriage.

Nor is this a moral issue. The only moral question before us is whether it is moral to use this legislation to foster prejudice and misinformation among our citizens for political gain.

I suggest we turn our attention to creating conditions that foster relationships between people in which they care for each other. To quote Ecclesiastics 4:9-10, “Two are better than one. If one falls down, his friend can help him up.”

The Reverend Billy Graham used that Biblical quote to justify marriage. Reverend Graham stated, “Nowhere is this truer than in marriage when sickness or other problems come. One of the reasons God has given marriage to us is for times like this.”

It is with marriage that our society makes it a little easier to survive and obtain fulfillment.

Let’s turn our efforts to making life a little easier for people by giving them all equal opportunities to love and help each other.

Let’s also give them the freedom to decide for themselves who they would like for a partner in life. Let’s not raise barriers to prevent our citizens from partaking equally in the rights guaranteed by our Constitution and legal benefits granted by our laws.

I urge my colleagues to vote against this narrow-minded legislation.

Rep. Jim McDermott
Box 21786, Seattle, WA98111-3786; 206-622-6701; fax 206-622-6617

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