Constitution Says 'All Men' Are Created Equal? NYT, NBC Got it Wrong, Too

By Michael W. Chapman | February 14, 2014 | 4:49pm EST

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen who, in her Feb. 13, 2014, ruling declaring Virginia's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, misquoted the U.S. Constitution, confusing a phrase that is from the Declaration of Independence. (AP)

( – In her ruling yesterday that Virginia’s ban against gay marriage was unconstitutional, U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen confused language from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, an error that was quoted in a New York Times story but not corrected by the “newspaper of record," and also was repeated by NBC News and not corrected.

In the first paragraph of her Feb. 13 ruling for the Eastern District of Virginia, Judge Allen wrote, “Our Constitution declares that ‘all men’ are created equal. Surely this means all of us.”  (See edva-ssm-opinion.pdf)

However, the Constitution does not say that; in fact, the words “all men” do not appear as a phrase in the Constitution at all.

The second paragraph in the Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

In his Feb. 14 story for the New York Times, reporter Erick Eckholm wrote: “A federal judge on Thursday evening declared that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, in the strongest legal reversal yet of restrictive marriage amendments that exist throughout the South."

The Times continued, '''Our Constitution declares that 'all men' are created equal,''' wrote Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, in Norfolk. ‘Surely this means all of us.’”

The New York Times article did not correct the judge’s misquotation or explain from where the phrase “all men are created equal” originated.

In a report late on Feb. 13, NBC News reporter Miranda Leitsinger also quoted Judge Allen's statement -- "Our Constitution declares that 'all men' are created equal" -- without correction.

The Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. The U.S. Constitution was adopted on Sept. 17, 1787 by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Penn.  (See  Declaration and Constitution.pdf)

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