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Allard: Fight to defend traditional marriage ‘just beginning’

(Updated: 8:15 p.m. ET)

WASHINGTON (BP)–Although the Senate likely does not have the votes to pass a constitutional marriage amendment, supporters said Tuesday they are in the fight for the long haul.

“We are just beginning to defend marriage,” Sen. Wayne Allard, R.-Colo., said on the floor. “This debate may go well beyond this year. I anticipate we’re going to have more votes [on amendments]. But the message is that we’re just beginning.”

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R.-Texas, made a similar statement.

“I don’t think that we will have the votes on Wednesday to proceed to this critical issue,” she said. “But this is an important step to start the debate. And, eventually, we are going to have to take some action….”

As Senators entered the third day of debate on the Federal Marriage Amendment, three senators who had been listed as “uncommitted” on some lists took a stand. Sen. John Warner, R.-Va., said he supports the first sentence of the amendment but not the second sentence, and added that he will vote with Republicans Wednesday to prevent a filibuster. Meanwhile, Sens. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) and Barbara Mikulski (D.-Md.) both announced their opposition to the amendment.

Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D.-S.D., announced Tuesday that Democrats would filibuster the amendment Wednesday and prevent a vote. Sixty votes are needed to prevent a filibuster. Daschle previously had promised to allow a vote on the amendment, as long as Republicans did not present any alternatives.

But Sen. Gordon Smith, R.-Ore., wants to submit a second amendment that is only one sentence and may have broader support. Smith’s amendment omits the second sentence in the original Federal Marriage Amendment sponsored by Allard. Although Smith’s amendment would prohibit same-sex “marriage” nationwide, it would leave open the possibility that courts could legalize Vermont-type civil unions.

Allard, who defended his amendment, seemed to indicate he believes Smith’s version is acceptable.

“He and I have been working together to strive for a consensus,” Allard said.

The Smith version of the amendment likely would attract Warner, who said he “would work with others to address” his concerns.

Debate Tuesday was the liveliest yet. Opponents of the amendment said it would infringe on states rights and limit the rights of homosexuals. Supporters of the amendment said that without an amendment, a federal court would legalize same-sex “marriage” nationwide. Massachusetts is the only state with homosexual “marriage.”

“What those who suggest that we leave it to the states are suggesting is to leave it to the state courts,” Sen. Rick Santorum, R.-Pa., an amendment supporter, said. “That’s always been the secret weapon of those who want to change our culture and change our laws without going through the process …”

Another amendment supporter, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R.-Utah, said that same-sex “marriage” will replace traditional marriage “unless we act.”

“I think gay people have a right to their lifestyle — certainly in the privacy of their home,” Hatch said. “But they do not have the right to impose that lifestyle or to impose their views on everybody in America by changing the definition of marriage.”

But Senate Democrats said the amendment would curb individual rights. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D.-Mass., a supporter of same-sex “marriage,” said the amendment is full of “bigotry” and “prejudice.”

“President Bush wants to persuade Congress to write bigotry back into the Constitution by denying gays and lesbians the right to marry and receive the same benefits and protections that married couples now have,” he said.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D.-Calif., criticized the language of Allard’s amendment, saying she “strongly” supports Vermont-type civil unions and believes the Allard amendment will “deny … millions of Americans equal rights”

The sentence in dispute — the second half of the Allard amendment — reads: “Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.”

Supporters of the Allard amendment say it would tie the hands of state courts but would allow state legislatures to decide the issue of civil unions.

“This is a moderate amendment,” Allard said. “We do allow states the opportunity to [legalize] civil unions and domestic partnerships.”

While Boxer likely would not vote even for an alternative amendment, Smith’s version could pull in the support of some senators uncomfortable with the Allard amendment.

Citizens who support the amendment, McCain said, would do well to try and change the minds of Americans rather than calling Senators. The Senate switchboard was flooded by phone calls Monday and Tuesday from amendment supporters. McCain said that by his count, there are not even 51 Senators who support the amendment.

“That won’t change, unless public opinion changes significantly,” McCain said.

Amendment supporters argued that without an amendment courts would overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, thus giving the country nationwide same-sex “marriage.” DOMA, signed into law in 1996, prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex “marriage” and allows states to do the same.

“This battle is being forced upon us by the courts of the country, and if [senators] don’t want to vote on this, [then] get the Massachusetts Supreme Court to reverse itself,” Sen. Jim Talent, R.-Mo., said.

In May, thanks solely to a court order, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex “marriage.”

Boxer said the Senate should be debating other issues, such as national security.

“What is more a threat to you — al Qaida moving forward with its plans to carry out a large-scale attack in America, to disrupt our Democratic process, or two people who happen to be of the same gender moving in together down your street?” she asked.

Talent, though, said the amendment is worth debating.

“The courts in this country are engaged in a process by which they are going to force the people of this country — whether they like it or not — to accept a fundamental change in the basic building block of our society,” Talent said.

Talent then sarcastically added: “I kind of think that’s important…. I think it’s worth debating.”

Marriage, Talent said, is more than an expression of love between two people.

“[It’s] also the institution that we in our society rely upon for raising our children. And it’s best for kids — if possible and where possible — to have a mom and a dad. And that’s one thing that two people of the same sex cannot give children. They cannot give them a mom and a dad.”

For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit

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  • Michael Foust