WASHINGTON (BP)–The House of Representatives will debate the Federal Marriage Amendment prior to the November election and likely will debate a separate bill within weeks that would prevent federal courts from overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, Majority Leader Tom DeLay says.
It previously was thought that the House would not take up the marriage amendment this year. The Senate is scheduled to begin debating the amendment July 12.
“We feel like marriage is under attack,” DeLay, R.-Texas, said, according to the Associated Press. “Marriage is a spiritual bond between one man and one woman. I came to realize, in the end, we’re going to have to do a constitutional amendment if we want to protect marriage.”
The amendment is sponsored by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R.-Colo., and has 126 co-sponsors. Guy Short, Musgrave’s chief of staff, said that while he couldn’t confirm that a floor debate on the amendment is certain, Republican leaders are working to gain support. A call to DeLay’s office was not immediately returned.
“Nothing’s actually on the schedule, so we’ll have to wait and see,” Short told Baptist Press. “But there’s a chance that it’ll come up in September and certainly the congresswoman is working very hard to get a vote on the marriage amendment.”
The amendment would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, thus banning same-sex “marriage.”
Constitutional amendments require the passage of two-thirds of both the House and Senate and three-quarters of the states. In the House, that means it must acquire 290 of the 435 votes.
“We believe we’ve got a majority, but at this point we’re short of a super-majority, and so that’s what we’re working for,” Short said.
Some Washington observers believe the amendment has a better chance of passing the House, which generally is more conservative than the Senate. If the amendment passes the House, supporters say, the Senate will be pressured to pass it as well — assuming that the Senate does not pass it beforehand. The amendment does not have the 67 votes required to pass the Senate, and may not have the 60 votes required to prevent a filibuster.
Recent polls show that the amendment has popular support. A CBS News poll showed that 60 percent of Americans support it, while a Wirthlin Worldwide poll showed that 67 percent support it.
Meanwhile, the House is set to take up a separate bill — possibly in July — that would protect the Defense of Marriage Act from federal courts. DOMA, signed into law in 1996, prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex “marriage” and allows states to do the same. The law, though, is being challenged in federal court. If it were overturned, then all 50 states presumably would be forced to recognize Massachusetts’ same-sex “marriages.”
The bill, HR 3313, is sponsored by Rep. John Hostettler, R.-Ind., and has 41 co-sponsors. The bill’s opponents say courts should never be stripped of their powers.
While the bill would protect the Defense of Marriage Act from federal courts, it nonetheless would allow state courts to legalize same-sex “marriage” — which Massachusetts’ highest court did. In addition, the bill — if it became law — could be reversed by a future Congress. A constitutional amendment would be considerably tougher to reverse.
The Hostettler bill does not go far enough, Short said, adding that Musgrave is leaning toward voting against it.
“It leaves the marriage issue to state courts, and quite frankly, so far in the marriage debate, the state courts have been the problem,” Short said. “Massachusetts’ state court is what has given us gay marriage in America, and the Hostettler bill does nothing to preserve marriage as the union between a man and a woman.
The Hostettler bill states, in part: “No court created by Act of Congress shall have any jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court shall have no appellate jurisdiction, to hear or determine any question pertaining to [the Defense of Marriage Act].”
The constitutional amendments are HR 56 in the House and SJR 30 in the Senate.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit