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SUMMARY: What senators said during debate Monday


WASHINGTON (BP)–Eight senators spoke on the floor during debate on the Marriage Protection Amendment June 5. Three supported the amendment, five opposed it. Following is a sampling of what senators said, in order of when they spoke:

— Harry Reid, D.-Nev., opposes the amendment.

Reid said the Senate is spending “valuable” time on an amendment that “has no hope” of passing.

“I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman,” he said. “But I also believe in our federal system of government, described to me in college as a central whole divided among self-governing parts. Those self-governing parts — the 50 states — have already in state after state after state decided this on their own, and others are deciding it as we speak.

— Arlen Specter, R.-Pa., opposes the amendment.

“I do believe that marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman.” Specter said, adding he believed Congress had spoken on the issue in passing the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. He supported DOMA.

“… I believe that former Sen. Barry Goldwater said it comprehensively and succinctly when he said, ‘Government ought to be kept off our backs, out of our pocketbooks and out of our bedrooms’ — and that this is a matter which ought to be left to the states, and the states are taking care of it,” Specter said.

But Specter also seemed to leave open the possibility that he could someday support an amendment, if courts forced the issue: “If it should become necessary for the consideration at a later date for a constitutional amendment to be considered, there will be ample time to do so.”

— Patrick Leahy, D.-Vt., opposes the amendment.

“The Republican leader has decided that today, our nation’s most pressing priority is concern over committed relationships between same-sex couples,” he said. “… The Constitution is too important to be used for such a partisan, political purpose.”

The amendment, he said, would “write discrimination” into the Constitution and is being used to “distract” Americans from “real” problems.

“No states” in the past two years, he said, have been forced to recognize “gay marriage.”

That, though, could change any day. Three state supreme courts (New Jersey, New York and Washington state) are considering lawsuits seeking to redefine marriage.

— Wayne Allard, R.-Colo., supports the amendment.

“Today there are numerous efforts to redefine marriage to be something that it isn’t,” Allard said. “… Two women or two men simply do not meet the criteria for marriage as it has been defined for thousands of years. Marriage is and it always has been a union between a man and a woman. I believe the framers of the Constitution felt that this would never be an issue, and if they had, it would have been included in the U.S. Constitution.

“… Like the vast majority of Americans, it would have never occurred to me that the definition of marriage or marriage itself would be the source of controversy. … Some of my colleagues feel we shouldn’t be talking about marriage in the Senate. I say we must. Our government is a three branch government. The Congress is the branch that represents the people most directly. We have a duty … to discuss the state of marriage in America. If we do not take this up, we abdicate our responsibilities. We will allow the courts sole dominion on the state and future of marriage.”

— Tim Johnson, D.-S.D., opposes the amendment.

“My state of South Dakota already has enacted an anti-gay marriage law, and it’s taking up a possible state constitutional amendment to that effect,” Johnson said. “But that is where the debate ought to be taking place — in South Dakota and in the other states [and] not here in D.C.”

“There is a place for debate over gay marriage,” he added, and it should be in the states.

— Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., supports the amendment.

“[This debate is] about who is going to define marriage in America. It’s not whether marriage is going to be defined. It’s about who is going to define marriage in America. Is it going to be defined by the courts that have started this debate, or is it going to be defined by legislatures and legislative bodies across the country?”

“… There hardly could be a more important issue than the foundational structure of how we build this society, and how societies have been built for thousands of years. They’ve been built around the institution of marriage — of a man and a woman bonded together for life, and out of that families develop and grow and prosper and children are raised …”

Brownback argued that the support on the state level for the amendment is strong, noting that 45 states have adopted either constitutional amendments or state statutes protecting the natural definition of marriage (19 states have passed amendments, 26 statutes). Brownback called the issue a “reverse constitutional amendment.”

“You have 45 of the 50 states already speaking on this, saying marriage is the union of a man and a woman — feeling it is so important that they want to act before the Congress can act, before the Constitution can be amended,” Brownback said, adding that the amendments on the state level have passed with an average of 71.5 percent support.

— Sen. Byron Dorgan, D.-N.D., opposes the amendment.

“The current law, the Defense of Marriage Act, which the federal government passed in 1996, still stands,” Dorgan said. “So I see no reason to amendment the United States Constitution.”

Dorgan mentioned advertisements by Focus on the Family that had run in North Dakota newspapers calling for him to support the amendment. Interestingly, Dorgan said he was “not familiar with” the Colorado-based organization.

— Sen. John Cornyn, R.-Texas, supports the amendment.

“[T]his is not an issue that we have raised gratuitously or out of thin air,” Cornyn said. “This is a fight that really has been brought to the American people by those would seek to use the courts to advance their agenda to call marriage between one man and one woman … discrimination …”

“This almost seems surreal to me. The last thing I thought I would end up doing, coming to Washington and the United States Senate, would be … having to defend the institution of traditional marriage. I thought some things were given.”
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For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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  • Michael Foust