WASHINGTON (BP)–Democrat Senators at a subcommittee hearing Sept. 4 were cold to the idea of passing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex “marriage.”
The Judiciary Committee’s Constitution Subcommittee heard testimony on how the Defense of Marriage Act can best be preserved, and four of the six witnesses supported a constitutional amendment as the best solution to defend traditional marriage. But five Democrat senators — Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Charles Schumer of New York and Richard Durbin of Illinois — said either that they opposed such an amendment or that such talk was premature.
“I do not support a constitutional amendment, nor do I feel it’s necessary,” Leahy said. “I hope it will be unsuccessful if it is introduced.”
In 1996 Leahy and Durbin both voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which protects states from being forced to recognize another state’s same-sex “marriage.” At the time Durbin was serving in the House. Kennedy and Feingold were two of the 14 Senators who voted against it.
Conservatives fear that DOMA will be struck down in federal court, thus giving states no protections if a state such as Massachusetts begins awarding marriage certificates to homosexual couples. An amendment that would ban same-sex “marriage” — dubbed the Federal Marriage Amendment — has been introduced in the House of Representatives and has some 75 cosponsors.
Polling shows that a majority of Americans favor a constitutional amendment. A FOX News poll this summer had support at 58 percent, an Associated Press poll had support at 54 percent.
Feingold said Congress should not be focused on “a divisive issue that is best left to the states and the courts.”
States should be free to grant homosexuals rights if they so choose, Feingold said.
“The Constitution has never been amended to limit basic rights,” she said. “If the Federal Marriage Amendment is ratified, it would do just that.”
A constitutional amendment, Kennedy said, would infringe on religious freedoms.
“[F]ar from upholding religious freedom, the proposed amendment … would actually undermine these protections by telling churches that they can’t consecrate same-sex marriages, even though some churches are now doing so,” he said.
Kennedy asked, “What in the world are we doing over here to consider a constitutional amendment on this issue?”
Schumer said a constitutional amendment would limit states’ rights. He called the Constitution a “sacred document” and said he is reluctant to back an amendment on any issue.
Durbin did not say how he would vote on such an amendment but did say that the subcommittee’s conversation was “premature to the extreme.” Noting that DOMA is still law, he said the hearing was a “solution in search of a problem.”
Durbin expressed sentiment for the testimony of Keith Bradkowski, a homosexual man who testified about the grief he suffered after his partner, Jeffrey Collman, died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Legally, Collman’s next-of-kin were his parents and not Bradkowski. Bradkowski argued that he should have been protected legally.
Durbin said that while he has “misgivings and reservations about gay marriage, when I hear Mr. Bradkowski’s story, it’s one that I’ve heard over and over again.”
Speaking to Bradkowski, Durbin said, “There are certain things that we should have done to make your grief and sorrow a little less, and we didn’t. And I think we can, without assaulting the institution of marriage.”
Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, who as chairman called the meeting, defended the discussion.
“Certainly, I don’t think marriage is any less deserving of our attention than any of the important issues that the Congress has to deal with,” he said.
Senators would have had to have been “blind” to not realize that the issue of same-sex “marriage” is being discussed in America, Cornyn added.