Press

Statement On ENDA And DOMA

Date: 
September 10, 1996

Today the U.S. Senate voted on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), two key pieces of legislation affecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. The Senate passed DOMA, 85-14, as was expected. The Senate then voted 49 to 50 to defeat ENDA. Following is a statement attributable to Melinda Paras, executive director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF). ***

Today is a historic moment for lesbian and gay people, despite the outcome of the Senate votes. In spite of the intolerance of many Republican and Democrat lawmakers, we know we have finally broken the legislative log-jam that has blocked Congress from even discussing our civil rights in a serious manner. We know we will have to lose a few votes before we win the battle. We lost ENDA by only two votes. We know that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equal rights have taken center stage in American politics, and we can never go back to the days of silence.

We denounce the passage of DOMA. This law is a gratuitous attack on gay and lesbian people. The law is unnecessary, discriminatory and probably unconstitutional. Gay and lesbian people pay taxes and contribute proudly to this country, but we are denied the same rights and responsibilities heterosexual couples receive.

DOMA is bogus. It neither strengthens American families nor marriages between men and women. Instead, it draws a circle around gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people and proclaims that our families do not deserve recognition and our loving relationships are indecent. By passing this legislation, the Senate and House have caved in to the emotional arguments promoted by Right-wing extremists, for whom DOMA stands as the centerpiece of their 1996 political agenda. For they have a narrow definition of "family" that acts as a weapon to divide society into good and bad people, the moral and immoral.

We call on President Clinton to change his mind about same-gender marriage and veto this legislation. We demand that the President remember his campaign promise to gay and lesbian Americans in 1992, when he said that he has dream for America and gay and lesbian people are part of it. DOMA is a nightmare of injustice, not a dream for America. Mr. President: in this election year, as you campaign for our votes and our trust, do not sign this legislation. Do not capitulate to the rhetoric of the far Right. Stand for tolerance and inclusivity, not prejudice and hatred.

We salute those courageous 14 senators who voted against DOMA, and the 49 who voted for ENDA. We fondly remember the words, in particular, of Sen. Moseley-Braun, who exclaimed, "Gay and lesbian Americans...do not yet fully enjoy the 'equal protection of the laws' promised every American by the 14th Amendment. That is why I oppose the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. This issue is not the federal government's business. This bill is misguided and wrongheaded. The federal government's only legitimate role in this area is to protect individual liberty and choice, not to restrict it. DOMA moved through the House faster than any part of the 'Contract on America.' DOMA is all about the politics of fear and division."

And the words of Sen. Robb, who said, "As one who represents a traditionally conservative state [Virginia]...many of my friends and supporters have urged me to sit this one out because of the political fallout, but I can't do that. I feel very strongly that this legislation is fundamentally wrong. Despite its name, the [act] does not defend marriage against some imminent, crippling threat. Although we have made huge strides in the struggle against discrimination based on gender, race and religion, it is more difficult to see beyond our differences regarding sexual orientation. The fact that our hearts don't all speak in the same way is not cause for justification to discriminate."

The narrow defeat of ENDA will not stop us is our struggle to end discrimination in the workplace. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans deserve the same right as all citizens to earn a living and do their jobs free of bigotry. A majority of Americans, up to 75 percent, support an end to job discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Senate is out of touch with American opinion on this subject.

The passage of DOMA and the defeat of ENDA may be roadblocks on our journey to equality, but they will not turn us back. Unfortunately, the majority of the Senate was not willing to stand up for the principles for which this country stands: tolerance, compassion and fairness. Gay and lesbian loving relationships and families are here to stay because they speak to our aspirations of justice and reflect the real circumstances of our lives. Passage of DOMA will not change this. We will not stand by silently. We will not be used as scapegoats. We will continue to fight for ourselves, our loving partners, our families and our equality.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.