Fall 2004

Legislative Update:
Senate Rejection of Marriage Resolution Proposal Highlights Legislative Action

One of the most contended legislative issues of the year was the proposed joint resolution amending the Constitution of the United States to effectively ban same-sex marriage. Before recessing for the summer, the Senate declined, by a 48-50 vote, to move SJ Res 40, to the Senate floor for final consideration.

While the ABA has taken no position either favoring or opposing laws that would allow same-sex couples to enter in civil marriages, the ABA adopted Section-sponsored policy in February 2004, “opposing any federal enactment that would restrict the ability of a state or territory to: (a) prescribe the qualifications for civil marriage between two persons within its jurisdiction; and (b) determine when effect should be given to a civil marriage validly contracted between two persons under the laws of another jurisdiction.”

On July 22, the House passed, by a 233-194 vote, HR 3313, to amend Title 28, United States Code, to limit federal court jurisdiction over questions under the Defense of Marriage Act.

Last November, President Bush signed into law H Res 257, "The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003," prohibiting doctors from committing an "overt act" designed to kill a "partially-delivered" fetus. On September 8, a third federal judge, in Nebraska, declared the law unconstitutional, recognizing the ban as a threat to women's health. Judges in both San Francisco and New York have also declared the law unconstitutional. Attorney General John Ashcroft is appealing these decisions.

Flag Desecration

On July 20, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved S J Res 4, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States authorizing Congress to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States. (In 1989, the ABA adopted policy that opposes the adoption of an amendment to the Constitution concerning the desecration of the American flag.)

USA PATRIOT Act

On July 16, Sen. Kyle (R-AZ) introduced S 2679, the “Tools to Fight Terrorism Act of 2004,” to strengthen anti-terrorism investigative tools, promote information sharing, and punish terrorist offenses. The bill has been placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders.

Privacy

On July 22, Rep. Inslee (D-WA) introduced HR 4956, the “E-mail Privacy Act of 2004,” to amend Title 18, United States Code, to provide penalties for accessing certain electronic communications in a manner that violates consumer privacy. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. A companion bill, HR 4977, the “E-mail Privacy Protection Act of 2004,” was introduced in the House by Rep. Nadler (D-NY). The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

National Security

On July 22, Rep. Holt (D-NJ) introduced HR 4951, to require the videotaping of interrogations and other pertinent actions between a detainee or prisoner in the custody or under the effective control of the armed forces of the United States pursuant to an interrogation, or other pertinent interaction, for the purpose of gathering intelligence. The bill was referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

On Sept. 9, Sen. Feingold (D-WI) introduced S 2783, to clarify under which conditions of computer trespass communications may be intercepted under the USA-PATRIOT Act. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.


HIV/AIDS

On July 9, Rep. Lee (D-CA) introduced HR 4792, the “New United States Global HIV Prevention Strategy to Address the Needs of Women and Girls Act of 2004,” to require the President to establish a comprehensive, integrated, and culturally appropriate HIV prevention strategy that emphasizes the needs of women and girls in each country for which the U. S. provides assistance to combat HIV/AIDS. The bill was referred to the Committee on International Relations.

Immigration

On July 21, Rep. Jackson Lee (D-TX) introduced HR 4885, the “Comprehensive Immigration Fairness Act,” to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to reunify families, permit earned access to permanent resident status, provide protection against unfair immigration-related employment practices, reform the diversity visa program, and provide adjustment of status for Haitian and Liberian nationals. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

On Sept. 9, Rep. Shaw (R-FL) introduced HR 5058, to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to permit alien children receiving medical treatment in the U. S. to be classified as immediate relatives to avoid extreme hardship to themselves or their immediate relative alien parents. The bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

International

On July 7, Sen. Boxer (D-CA) introduced S 2611, to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to provide assistance for orphans and other vulnerable children in developing countries. The bill was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

On July 22, Sen. Schiff (D-CA) introduced HR 4989, the “Liberty List Act,” to require an annual Department of State report on information relating to the promotion of religious freedom, democracy, and human rights in foreign countries by individuals, nongovernmental organizations, and the media in those countries. The bill was referred to the Committee on International Relations.

Health

On July 21, Sen. Gregg (R-NH) introduced S 2710, the “National Health Information Technology Adoption Act,” to amend the Public Health Service Act to improve the quality and efficiency of health care delivery through improvements in health care information technology. The bill was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Children and Families

On July 19, Rep. Herger (R-CA) introduced HR 4856, the “Child Safety, Adoption, and Family Enhancement (Child SAFE) Act of 2004,” to provide states with improved incentives, more flexibility, and increased funds to develop child welfare services that meet the unique needs of children and families and enhance children’s prospects for safe and permanent living arrangements. The bill was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means.

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