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SUMMARY: What senators said during debate Wednesday

WASHINGTON (BP)–Fourteen senators gave speeches about the Federal Marriage Amendment Wednesday, July 14 — seven Democrats and seven Republicans. Following is a summary of their arguments, arranged in the order in which they spoke:

— Edward Kennedy, D.-Mass. (against the amendment).

Kennedy, a supporter of same-sex “marriage,” said Republicans were taking part in “politics of mass distraction.”

“We all know what this issue is about. It’s not about how to protect the sanctity of marriage,” he said. “… It’s about politics.”

Kennedy called the marriage amendment “discriminatory.” He also said that of the seven judges on the Massachusetts high court, Republican governors nominated six.

— Jack Reed, D.-R.I. (against the amendment).

“Congress has already addressed this issue in a statute that has yet to be legally challenged,” Reed said.

Reed was referring to the Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law in 1996 by President Clinton. It prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex “marriage” and allows states to do the same. Contrary to Reed’s assertion, it is being challenged in a federal court in Florida.

Amendments, Reed said, “should be the last resort, not the first response.”

— John Cornyn, R-Texas (for the amendment).

Acknowledging defeat, Cornyn said the debate has been good for two reasons.

“We’ve had a debate on the importance of traditional marriage and the importance of the American family,” he said. “That’s been a debate that’s been long overdue.”

In addition, Cornyn said, the debate has resulted in Americans learning about the threat to traditional marriage.

“We’ve been able to direct the American people’s attention to the erosion of our most fundamental institutions by judges who seek to enforce their personal political agendas under the guise of interpreting the Constitution.”

Cornyn said the alternative amendment, supported by Gordon Smith, has more support than the original Federal Marriage Amendment. Smith’s version would strike the second sentence of FMA but would still ban same-sex “marriage.”

“I’m advised that it would garner perhaps as many as 10 new votes,” Cornyn said.

— Tom Carper, D.-Del. (against the amendment).

Carper noted that when he was governor of Delaware, he signed into law that state’s Defense of Marriage Act prohibiting same-sex “marriage.” He seemed to leave open the possibility that he could vote for the amendment if DOMA successfully was challenged in court.

“Time will tell, but I believe that my law in Delaware will also be sustained without a constitutional amendment, and if it isn’t, then this is an issue that we can revisit and I think will,” he said.

— Wayne Allard, R.-Colo. (for the amendment).

Allard said he initially was skeptical about amending the Constitution over the definition of marriage.

“But after sitting down with colleagues and scholars and people who were following the courts, I came to the realization that there was a process going on over here in the courts that I wasn’t aware of,” he said.

Without an amendment, Allard said, the courts will legalize same-sex “marriage” nationwide.

— Joseph Lieberman, D.-Conn (against the amendment).

“Marriage is an issue best left to the states in our constitutional and legal framework,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman called the Constitution “sacred.” Amendment supporters, Lieberman said, “bear a heavy burden of showing that it is absolutely necessary to” amend the Constitution.

Lieberman noted that he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 and added that a constitutional amendment is “unnecessary.” If DOMA is declared unconstitutional, he said, “there will be enough time for those of us who oppose [same-sex] marriage to act statutorily or constitutionally.”

— Jeff Sessions, R.-Ala. (for the amendment).

Sessions said the Supreme Court’s Lawrence v. Texas decision — which overturned anti-sodomy laws — has paved the way for a pro-same-sex “marriage” decision.

“Marriage is good,” he said. “[But] it is in jeopardy by the courts.”

States, he said, “have a right” to vote on a constitutional marriage amendment.

— Christopher Dodd, D.-Conn. (against the amendment).

The amendment, Dodd said, “runs counter” to America’s constitutional “traditions” and would “deny” rather than “confer” rights.

“I believe it would be a step backward for all Americans …,” he said. “Where is the crisis? … There is no crisis. This is merely a political issue for some that want to raise the question, where, frankly, the problem is non-existent.”

— Rick Santorum, R.-Pa. (for the amendment).

Santorum, mocking the arguments of amendment opponents, said, “America, look somewhere else. Don’t pay attention to what’s going on here. Everything will be fine. Just leave to us — us judges.”

Countering those who said the issue should be left up to the states, Santorum noted that an amendment would have to be ratified by 38 states.

“The Constitution shouldn’t be amended — so said the senator from Connecticut [Christopher Dodd] — on the passions and whims of the moment,” Santorum said. “… [But] what would others like to see happen? They would like it to be amended on the passions and whims of judges.”

Amendment opponents, Santorum said, want the courts to do the “dirty work.”

“This is a great and extraordinary occasion,” he said. “I would argue that the future of our country hangs in the balance because the future of the American family hangs in the balance.”

— Patrick Leahy, D.-Vt. (against the amendment).

Leahy said the amendment would “write discrimination into the Constitution.”

“When you change the fundamental role of the federal government and have it intrude into the lives of our people and into our separate religious institutions, that’s wrong,” Leahy said. “… Where is the respect for our states here?

“… Gay and lesbian Americans across the nation are looking to the Senate today to see whether this body is going to brand them as inferiors in our society.”

— Orrin Hatch, R.-Utah (for the amendment).

“Some of my colleagues suggest that we do not need a national policy on marriage,” he said. “Well, guess what? We’ve always had one.”

Utah, Hatch noted, was not allowed into the Union until it banned polygamy.

“The federal government understood then what we still know today — that children are best off by having a mother and a father.”

Answering those who said the Constitution should not address marriage, Hatch said, “If such a foundational institution such as this is not deserving of our protection in our Constitution, then I don’t know what is.”

— Gordon Smith, R-Ore. (for an amendment, but which version is unclear).

Smith pointed to polls showing that large majorities of Americans oppose same-sex “marriage.”

“I think the American people understand that when we tinker with the most basic institutions that govern relationships between men and women, we are tinkering with the foundations of our culture, our civilization, our nation and our future,” Smith said.

The Constitution, Smith argued, eventually will be amended to define marriage.

“The question is by whom?” he asked. “Should it be done by a few liberal elites? Should it be done by four judges in Massachusetts? Should it be done by a few rogue mayors around the country?”

— Tom Daschle, D.-S.D. (against the amendment).

The Defense of Marriage Act, Daschle said, is sufficient to protect marriage.

“That is the law of the land,” he said. “It has been now for eight years and it has not once been challenged successfully.”

The issue, Daschle said, should be left to the states.

“The answer to the question — is it now time to amend the Constitution? — is clearly no. … This fundamental responsibility lies with the states,” Daschle said. “It has for two centuries.”

— Bill Frist, R.-Tenn. (for the amendment).

Same-sex “marriage,” Frist said, is being exported to all 50 states.

“We didn’t ask for the debate,” Frist said. “… Four activist judges on the Massachusetts Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage on May 17, and that’s where the debate began, and that’s why we act today.”

Courts, Frist said, must be stopped.

“The question is no longer whether the Constitution will be amended,” he said. “The only question is who will amend it and how it will be amended. Will activist judges — not elected by the American people — destroy the institution of marriage? Or will the people protect marriage as the best way to raise children? My vote is with the people.”
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit

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  • Michael Foust