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House Tramples Constitutional Separation of Powers

The US House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that would strip the federal courts, including the US Supreme Court, of its jurisdiction over same-sex marriage cases. The so-called Marriage Protection Act (H.R. 3313) was passed by a vote of 233-194. The bills aim is to block the federal courts from deciding the constitutionality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that allows states to not recognize same-sex marriages bestowed in another state. Many constitutional scholars have long argued that the DOMA law is unconstitutional because it contradicts the full faith and credit clause that requires states to give full faith and credit to the laws of other states.

Opponents argue that the bill sets a dangerous precedent where Congress could limit the jurisdiction of the courts over other controversial issues such as reproductive rights. House Majority Leader Tom Delay said that he plans to continue the use of "jurisdiction stripping" laws to achieve other social policy objectives, The Hill reports.

"Today its the rights of lesbians and gay men. Tomorrow womens rights, workers rights, and civil rights cases will be blocked from being heard, said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. This federal jurisdiction stripping strategy is just a way to promulgate racist and sexist laws without providing recourse in our nations courts. Without federal courts there would be no recourse for African Americans and women in case upon case where they are fighting for education, employment, voting, and pay equity.

Does the Delay Republican Party really want to, once again, stand in the doorway against womens and civil rights? Smeal asked.

Last week, the House tried to pass a constitutional amendment that would have outlawed same-sex marriage but it failed to muster two-thirds of the vote necessary to pass a constitutional amendment. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) told the Washington Post, They couldnt amend the Constitution last week, so theyre trying to desecrate and circumvent the Constitution this week.

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Media Resources: Feminist Daily News Wire; Washington Post 7/23/04; The Hill 7/15/04