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Committee sends marriage amendment to full Senate

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a constitutional amendment to protect marriage May 18, setting the stage for a floor vote in early June.

The panel sent the measure to the full Senate in a 10-8, party-line vote, with Republicans in the majority. Sen. Bill Frist, the majority leader, has scheduled floor debate on the amendment beginning June 5, with a vote expected June 6 or 7.

The Marriage Protection Amendment, S.J. Res. 1, defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. It is intended to protect the institution against continuing legal efforts to legalize “homosexual marriage.”

“The Marriage Protection Amendment has cleared its first hurdle in coming out of the Judiciary Committee,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “It is now up to the American people to let their voices be heard loudly and clearly that they want their senators to vote for the Marriage Protection Amendment to keep activist judges from ramming same-sex marriage down their throats.”

Support in the Senate will have to increase markedly from two years ago to reach the two-thirds majority of 67 votes needed to approve a constitutional amendment.

The committee’s party-line vote “gives us the very clear indication of the difficulty that confronts us in gaining enough votes when the amendment comes before the full Senate,” said Barrett Duke, the ERLC’s vice president for public policy and research.

The ERLC hopes a massive response from Americans who oppose “same-sex marriage” will provide the impetus needed to gain the necessary votes. The ERLC is working as part of a diverse religious coalition calling on Americans to urge their senators to support the amendment.

Though only Massachusetts has legalized “same-sex marriage,” supreme courts in New Jersey, New York and Washington could legitimize such unions before the end of the year.

The day before the Judiciary Committee’s vote, a decision in Georgia appeared to validate why supporters of a federal amendment say such a solution is necessary. A state judge ruled May 16 Georgia’s marriage amendment, which was approved by 76 percent of voters in 2004, violates the state constitution. The amendment prohibits both “same-sex marriage” and homosexual civil unions.

Ratification of an amendment to the Constitution requires not only passage by two-thirds of both houses of Congress but approval by three-fourths of the states. Neither house of Congress came close to a two-thirds majority in 2004 votes, and there has been no floor vote in either chamber since then.

The Senate failed even to give an up-or-down vote in 2004. Supporters gained only 48 of the 60 votes needed to halt debate and allow a vote, a procedure called invoking cloture. Fifty senators voted against cloture, thereby blocking a vote.

The House of Representatives achieved a majority with a 227-186 vote, but it, too, fell far short of the votes needed for passage.

In November of last year, the Senate’s Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights Subcommittee forwarded the Marriage Protection Amendment to the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 5-4 vote, also along party lines.

During the May 18 mark-up of the amendment, members of the Judiciary Committee clashed in what the Associated Press described as a “shouting match.”

Sen. Russell Feingold, D.-Wis., complained about the amendment and the handling of the vote, and said he planned to leave the meeting, according to AP.

Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R.-Pa., said, “I don’t need to be lectured by you. You are no more a protector of the Constitution than am I. If you want to leave, good riddance.”

Feingold replied, “I’ve enjoyed your lecture, too, Mr. Chairman. See ya.”

Specter said he opposes the amendment but voted for it in committee because he believed it should be debated in the full Senate, AP reported.

The Marriage Protection Amendment says, “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. 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.”

Information on the amendment and how to contact senators’ offices is available at the ERLC’s website, www.faithandfamily.com.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage