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June 30, 2004

Philadelphia Bar Association Opposes Federal Marriage Amendment

"Charging that it would usurp the power of states to interpret their own constitutions," the Philadelphia Bar Association has declared its opposition to the federal marriage amendment (S. J. Res. 26) or any other proposed amendment to the United States Constitution or federal enactment, which would restrict the ability of a state or territory to prescribe the qualifications for civil marriage between two persons, or determine whether recognition should be given to a civil marriage validly contracted between two persons under the law of another jurisdiction.

The Association expressed its position in the form of a Resolution unanimously adopted by its Board of Governors at the Board's most recent meeting. The Association will communicate its views to every member of Congress, which is expected to consider the matter next month.

According to Association Chancellor Gabriel L. I. Bevilacqua, the state's largest local bar association felt a need to express "its strong commitment to the right of the states to make and interpret their own laws in areas which have traditionally been the domain of the states." The Chancellor also noted that "throughout our history, our federal Constitution has been successfully amended to expand individual rights, not to limit those rights." The one time the Constitution was amended to limit rights (in the case of prohibition) the amendment "failed miserably" and was repealed, Bevilacqua observed.

"We must remember that amending the Constitution is a serious matter and, as general rule, should only be approached for the most valid and extraordinary reasons," he added.

Without taking a position on same-sex marriage, the Chancellor noted "we believe in the equal protection of the law for everyone. We recognize that people have fundamental, basic rights. Supporting those rights and making room at the table for all members of our national family is not only right but is also sensible and pragmatic. We must not trifle with people's rights and we must honor our federal system and allow states to act in areas where they have jurisdiction," the Chancellor stated. "As an Association, this has been our commitment for more than 200 years. It will remain our commitment," he concluded.

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