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During the final day of debate of the American Bar Association House of Delegates, policy was adopted in support of marriage equality, micro stamping of newly manufactured semi-automatic pistols, and in support of the United States ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

The ABA’s House of Delegates considers recommendations presented to it by various association entities, as well as state and local bars, twice a year when it meets for its Annual and Midyear Meetings.  Recommendations that are adopted become official policy of the association, allowing it to lobby before Congress and the executive branch on the issues. 

The discussion on marriage equality occurred days after Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of the United States District Court of Northern District of California ruled that the California Proposition 8 initiative was unconstitutional. The policy, as adopted by the House of Delegates, urges state, territorial and tribal governments to eliminate legal barriers to civil marriage between two persons of the same sex who are otherwise eligible to marry.

Introducing the proposal, former ABA President Robert Grey argued that the fundamental issue was one of equality.  There was an era in which we as a nation needed to consider gender equality, equality for all races and equality for people with disabilities, he said.  “Denial of civil marriage harms [same-sex couples] and their families, excluding them from critical legal protections married people take for granted.”  

Incoming ABA President Steve Zack asked one question of the delegates, “Why would anyone in this country not want two people who love each other to enjoy the blessings of marriage, and the full protection of the law?”

Carolyn Lamm, who completed her one-year tenure as president of the association at the end of the meeting, added that adopting the recommendation would “Honor the dignity and value of loving, committed relationships.”  

The House of Delegates also adopted policy urging federal, state and territorial governments to enact laws requiring that newly manufactured semi-automatic pistols be fitted with micro stamping technology to better enable law enforcement officials to identify the serial number of the pistol used in a crime. 

In addition, the ABA adopted recommendation 107(A), urging the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.  Supporting the recommendation which was brought to the House by the ABA Section of International Law, Michael Byowitz of New York, spoke about the importance of rule of law.  The policy builds on existing ABA policy in support of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, he said.  President Obama’s administration is aggressively pursuing U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

During the meeting of the House of Delegates, the ABA also took steps to further Voluntary Good Practices Guidance for Lawyers to Detect and Combat Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing and urging Congress to enact laws that provide for a Startup Visa for foreign citizens forming businesses under which they can enter the United States and obtain permanent residency to build such businesses. It also adopted policy urging federal, state and other governments to provide funding to public defender offices and legal aid programs for the provision of advice about immigration consequences of criminal proceedings to indigent, non-U.S. citizen defendants.

The American Bar Association meets twice a year; its next, Midyear Meeting, will be held in Atlanta in February 2011.


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