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Children at risk when marriage redefined, amendment supporters say

Updated June 6, 4:42 p.m. Eastern

For a summary of what each senator said during debate, click here.

WASHINGTON (BP)–Senate supporters of a constitutional marriage amendment argued June 6 that societies that abandon the natural definition of marriage — one man, one woman — place children at risk.

“[S]ociety should be advocating for what’s best for children and should set a standard for what’s best,” Sen. Rick Santorum, R.-Pa., said on the Senate floor during the second day of debate on the Marriage Protection Amendment. “[We] know that when we destroy marriage, when we deconstruct marriage, bad things happen.”

On average, he said, children who grow up in a household with a mother and a father have fewer substance abuse problems, emotional problems, out-of-wedlock births and less criminal activity. They also perform better in school, he said.

“[W]e know from all the social data, in all societies, at all times, that the best place to raise children is [within] the union of a man and a woman,” Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., said. “… You can raise good children in other settings, but the best — the optimal setting — is in the union between a man and a woman, bonded together for life…. That’s something we’ve got social data on, but we also know that in our hearts.”

A procedural vote on the amendment, S.J. Res. 1, now is scheduled for Wednesday. It originally was thought a vote would take place today (Tuesday). The vote, known as a “cloture vote,” will determine whether senators will have an up-or-down vote on the amendment itself. But needing 60 votes to invoke cloture, it likely will fall short, although it might obtain at least a simple majority of 51 votes.

The amendment likely will receive few Democratic votes. A handful of Republicans, meanwhile, oppose it.

Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., said he could not “at this time” support the amendment.

Sen. John Warner, R.-Va., said he has concerns with the amendment in its present form. Specifically, Warner said he objects to the amendment’s second sentence, which states, “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.” The first sentence of the amendment simply says marriage “shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.”

“I am concerned that the second sentence of this proposed constitutional amendment is unnecessarily vague and could well trample on the rights [of the states],” he said, adding that the second sentence lacks “clarity.”

As they did during the first day of debate, opponents of the amendment criticized supporters for ignoring “more important” issues.

“I have lots of visitors in my offices in New Jersey and here [in Washington], and not one of them came in to talk to me about gay marriage,” Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D.-N.J. said. “They came in to talk to me about health insurance. They came to talk to me about their pensions disappearing….”

But supporters said the amendment is necessary in order to prevent courts from legalizing “gay marriage” nationwide. Since 2003, courts in five states have ruled for “gay marriage.” One of those (Massachusetts’) came at the state supreme court level. The other decisions have been appealed.

Additionally, lawsuits have been filed against the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that gives states the option of not recognizing another state’s “gay marriages.”

“I am not willing to surrender this issue to the courts,” Sen. Wayne Allard, R.-Colo., said, arguing that the amendment “protects states’ rights.”

“My amendment takes the issue out of the hands of a handful of activist judges and puts it squarely back in the hands of the people,” added Allard, the amendment’s sponsor.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., asserted that marriage “is going to be defined” nationally. The question, he said, is whether it will be defined by “the courts or the legislative bodies.”

“We seek to have it defined by legislative bodies,” Brownback said.

Sen. Mark Dayton, a Minnesota Democrat who opposes the amendment, argued that the proposal would “for the first in our nation’s history … add discrimination to our Constitution.”

But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R.-Utah, pointed to Americans’ opposition to “gay marriage” and asked, “The beliefs of most Americans in this country are discriminatory? Of course not. … Was it discrimination when 85 members of this body — including 32 Democrats — voted for DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act [in 1996]? Of course not. Was it discrimination when President Bill Clinton signed it? No.”

Constitutional amendments require the approval of two-thirds of both the House and Senate and three-quarters of the states. Courts cannot overturn amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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  • Michael Foust