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Marriage amend. falls short of 290, but receives majority vote

Updated Oct. 6

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Marriage Protection Amendment received a majority vote in the House of Representatives Sept. 30 but fell short of the required 290 votes, causing supporters to vow to keep fighting.

The vote on the constitutional amendment was 227-186, short of the two-thirds vote needed to pass. Nevertheless, it was a victory of sorts for supporters, who saw the same amendment fail to receive support from a simple majority of senators this summer.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican and an amendment supporter, delivered an impassioned speech in the final minutes of debate, conceding defeat but telling members that the political battle wasn’t over.

“[W]e will come back, and we will come back, and we will come back — we will never give up,” he said, pounding the lectern. “We will protect marriage in this country.”

The amendment received support from 191 Republicans and 36 Democrats. Voting against it were 27 Republicans, 158 Democrats and one independent. Nine Republicans and 11 Democrats did not vote.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said he was pleased with the vote total.

“A majority is a good place to start toward building the required two-thirds majority necessary to send the amendment to the states for ratification,” he said. “Clearly, national polls show that this vote does not reflect the significant majorities of Americans who want marriage protected as being defined as only between a man and a woman.”

The amendment is being pushed in reaction to events on the state level, particularly Massachusetts, where that state was forced to legalize same-sex “marriage” in May following a ruling by the Massachusetts high court. Courts in California, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington may follow with similar rulings within the next year.

Homosexual activists have vowed to challenge the national law, the Defense of Marriage Act, after winning a few more legal battles on the state level. One lawsuit has already been filed against it in a federal court in Florida.

DOMA gives states the option of not recognizing another state’s same-sex “marriage.” If overturned, then presumably all 50 states would be forced to change their marriage laws.

“The definition of marriage is going to be written at the federal level,” Rep. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican and an amendment supporter, said. “The question here today is whether that’s going to be done by nine men and women wearing black robes, or whether it’s going to be done by the American people, through their elected representatives in Congress and the 50 states [with an amendment].”

Opponents of the amendment charged that it was divisive, discriminatory and unnecessary.

“What is it your are protecting yourselves against? How do we threaten you?” Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat and an open homosexual, asked. “… Let the people of Massachusetts make their own choices, and let loving men and loving women live in peace.”

DeLay, though, said the amendment was necessary for the protection of children, who he said need a mother and father. Procreation, he said, is the purpose of marriage.

“Peter and Paul could be great fathers, but Peter and Paul can’t be a mother, and Mary and Jane can’t be a father,” DeLay said. “… There are wonderful families being raised by gay people, there are wonderful families [being raised] by single moms. But they are not the ideal.”

Opponents were united in their arguments. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D.-N.Y., said the amendment would teach children to “heat.” Rep. Diana DeGette, D.-Colo., said it would “enshrine discrimination” in the Constitution. Rep. Frank Pallone, D.-N.J., called the amendment “red meat for the conservative right.”

But amendment supported noted that in 1996, the same House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Defense of Marriage Amendment. In fact, some amendment opponents supported DOMA eight years ago.

“Don’t try to tell me that people who believe children need moms and dads are bigots,” said Joseph Pitts, R.-Pa., an amendment supporter. “Don’t try to tell me that people who believe in moral absolutes are guilty of moral bigotry. We’re here to protect our kids.”

Amendment opponent Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, compared the struggle for same-sex “marriage” to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

“[W]e are being asked to amend the Constitution … to single out a single unpopular group and say permanently, ‘You cannot even attempt to convince the legislature of your state to give you the right to marry,’” Nadler said.

Supporters, though, pointed to the many African-Americans and Hispanics who support the amendment. Rep. Sanford Bishop, a Georgia Democrat and an African-American, spoke in favor of the amendment. DeLay said he has received “hundreds” of letters from minority leaders supporting the amendment.

“They don’t say that the Marriage Protection Amendment is discrimination,” DeLay said. “In fact, they say just the opposite.”

Amendment supporter J.D. Hayworth, an Arizona Republican, asked opponents: “Do you truly believe that marriage, the traditional and foundational union between a man and a woman, is discrimination? Once we start treating a child’s need for a mother and father as discrimination, it becomes impossible for the institution of marriage to do its work.

“If it’s discriminatory to restrict marriage to a man and woman, then why not have three parents or four or more?” Hayworth asked.

DeLay warned that without an amendment, the debate over same-sex “marriage” would end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. He drew a comparison to the battle over abortion.

“Unfortunately, those who wanted more abortions in the states … had a concerted strategy to use the courts to get abortion,” he said. “And they worked over the years, went to the Supreme Court and they got their abortions.

“… The same thing is happening now on marriage.”
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage.

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  • Michael Foust