Press

NGLTF Statement On Upcoming Supreme Court Hearing Of Amendment 2

Date: 
September 21, 1995

Following are the remarks of Melinda Paras, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, delivered at a media briefing at the National Press Club on September 20, 1995. The media briefing about the Supreme Court's scheduled October 10 hearing on Colorado's anti-gay Amendment 2 was sponsored by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. For other information from the briefing, please contact Lambda at 212-995-8585.



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My name is Melinda Paras, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. My perspective today is not that of a lawyer or legal authority. I am speaking from the viewpoint of how a ruling on Amendment 2 will affect people far away from the Supreme Court and outside the Beltway. Since before Amendment 2 was passed in 1992, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has helped activists fight these measures around the country. We have traveled more than 150,000 miles to some 30 states and 50 cities to assist in the fight against these anti-gay ballot initiatives. Our experience in the field tells us that the center of gravity in this battle is at the state and local level, where Amendment 2 and other measures are tested and advanced. We know that a ruling in this case will have a dramatic political and symbolic impact on gay, lesbian and bisexual citizens. Amendment 2 prohibits all elected bodies in Colorado from ever considering laws to ban discrimination against gay people. In this way it changes the playing field for gay people in Colorado, singling us out for a different set of political rules than other Colorado citizens. It creates special barriers only for gay people, adding political hoops and hurdles to curb our ability to address discrimination in our communities and workplaces. And it pits Coloradan against Coloradan, creating an atmosphere in which hate crimes increased and anti-gay rhetoric skyrocketed. And yet, Amendment 2 doesn't just impact Colorado. As always, a Supreme Court ruling sends a powerful signal. In this case, the court can stand in defense of equal participation and fair play for all, or it can codify discrimination against one targeted group. A ruling that permits this outrageous Amendment to go into effect would be hailed by the Radical Right as justification for ongoing efforts in many other states to extend these walls and barriers through similar ballot measures -- efforts are already underway in Idaho and Oregon for 1996. And while these initiatives single out gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans, they are part of a broader attack occurring today on the civil rights of other people. Amendment 2 is truly outrageous and should never be implemented. The Supreme Court should support justice and equality, and refuse to concede to popular prejudice.



Amendment 2 statement

But the authors of this Amendment are not even waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on Amendment 2. The Radical Right continues to evolve its language and tactics to stay one step ahead of the courts. The initiative before voters in Maine this November is a perfect example of the changing tactics of the Right. It presents a list of who is protected against discrimination, and by omission declares who is not -- who is a first-class citizen and who is second-class. It's not a constitutional amendment. It is deeply flawed and intentionally confusing. It is different from Amendment 2 and designed to avoid the legal questions of that measure. No matter how the Supreme Court rules, the Radical Right will not stop in its quest to deny gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans our basic right to live free of discrimination. If the Court rescinds Amendment 2, the Right will try new language and tactics. If the Court upholds Amendment 2, we foresee a proliferation of initiatives. Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules in this case, our struggle for equality must continue. We are a dedicated and resilient community that will continue to come out and challenge all efforts to come between us and justice. Because our freedom is not won and lost at the Supreme Court, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is supporting a National Call To Action by Equality Colorado, a gay and lesbian political organization. The National Call to Action requests that people of conscience around the nation support those in Colorado by holding vigils on October 9, the eve of the Supreme Court hearing, and also be prepared to hold simultaneous actions on the day the ruling is handed down. The plaintiffs, the attorneys and the Supreme Court justices will be the focus of attention in the coming months. Meanwhile, the impact of this case will be felt by millions of gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans and our allies who hope that the Supreme Court will not give the green light to special barriers that curb democratic access for some citizens.

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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.