Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The R&R brought by Legal Marriage

By Cody Lyon

The executive director of a non profit organization that’s been campaigning since 2003 to end exclusion of same sex couples from what it says are the ‘the rights and responsibilities conveyed by legal marriage’ said a Tuesday resolution by the American Bar Association “signals a growing consensus” among the nation’s lawyers that “marriage is a fundamental right that belongs to every citizen.”

“Freedom to Marry’ founder, civil rights attorney Evan Wolfson, said in a statement that the ABA has “strongly declared that there is no good reason to continue excluding same sex couple from marriage.”

In its resolution, ABA urges, “state, territorial and tribal governments to eliminate all of their legal barriers to civil marriage between two person of the same sex who are otherwise eligible to marry.”

The resolution comes just a week after a federal judge in San Francisco struck down California's Proposition 8 as unconstitutional. The California ruling has opened up a Pandora’s box of both supporting and opposing opinions on whether or not same sex marriage is a constitutional right.

For example, Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, who participated at a press conference organized by a few Senate Republicans in Washington Wednesday signaled many in his party are taking the Court ruling by an openly gay judge into the political arena.

Smith said “It simply doesn't get much worse than this: you have a biased judge imposing his personal views contrary to the wishes of the majority of the people of the state.”

Of the ABA resolution, Doug Napier, an attorney with the conservative Alliance Defense Fund told ‘One News Now’ that "once again the American Bar Association is purporting to represent American lawyers, when in fact they only represent about a quarter of American lawyers,"

With its 400,000 members, ABA provides law school accreditation, continuing legal education, information about the law, programs to assist lawyers and judges in their work, and initiatives to improve the legal system for the public.

Founded in 1881, the ABA was founded by one hundred lawyers from 21 states who had gathered in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

In just under 130 years ago, ABA grew into the nation’s largest voluntary professional organization. The resolution on same sex marriage was approved by the 560-member ABA House of-Delegates during its annual meeting held this month in San Francisco.

The resolution’s lead sponsor was the New York State Bar Association under auspice of the ABA’s Section on Individual Rights and Responsibilities. Created in 1966, soon after a number earth moving court rulings related to the civil rights movement, the ABA ‘Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities’ provides leadership within the ABA and the legal profession in protecting and advancing human rights, civil liberties, and social justice

The full resolution approved Tuesday states that “the assertion that separate systems for classes of citizens can satisfy constitutional equality guarantees, as long as identical legal rights are conferred, invokes the long-repudiated reasoning in the court case Plessy v. Ferguson.

In that case, the Court upheld separate railway cars for African-Americans because “when the government… has secured to each of its citizens equal rights before the law, and equal opportunities for improvement and progress, it has accomplished the end for which it was organized. However, as our constitutional tradition and history has made clear, only full marriage equality comports with our constitutional standards that separate is not equal.

With that, ABA says see Brown v. Board of Ed., 347 U.S. 483 (1954).