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Constitutional Flaws
Rep. Lynn Rivers, (D) Mich.
House Floor Statement, July 11, 1996

I rise in opposition to this bill and I oppose it with both my head and my heart. My head, because my brain and my legal training tell me that there are constitutional flaws in this particular bill. My heart speaks even more strongly to tell me that this is wrong. Wrong because in America, rights are not for some but not for others. We do not have one-half citizenship or three-quarters citizenship for some people and different kinds of citizenship for another. We treat all of our citizens the same.

I took a look at the marriage vows, because I tried to decide what it is exactly that we want to keep people from having under this bill. When you take generic wedding vows that are accepted in many churches you find words like this: I so-and-so take you to be my wedded husband, wife, to have and to hold. And I thought, to have and to hold, which people is it that we want to forbid to have a committed relationship, to be sustained by the love of another person.

For better for worse, I ask again, which people are there that we want to make sure should not have a soul mate, a partner in life’s struggle, someone to laugh with, someone to cry with, someone to work with, to improve their lives, to support one another through good times and bad.

I looked at the words “in sickness and in health” and I asked myself, what people does the government want to keep from having a partner who will nurture them, who will nurse them, who will wipe their brow, who will hold their hand when they are ill. I could not find any.

I looked at the words “to love and to cherish” and I asked myself, who does the government want to keep from being the center of another person’s life. Who do we want to stop from being hugged, held, adored?

I looked at the words “I promise to be faithful to you until death parts us” and I asked myself, as a matter of public policy, who do we want to forbid from a monogamous promise. And given the comments made earlier about promiscuity, I cannot imagine who that would be.

Love is not a zero sum game, Mr. Chairman. One couple’s love is not a threat to another. Today’s marriages are threatened by a lack of commitment, a lack of maturity and a lack of fidelity. To argue any other thing else is specious.

I hope that all Members and all Americans will let their conscience be their guide on this despicable bill.

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