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SUMMARY: What senators said during FMA debate Friday

WASHINGTON (BP)–Ten senators spoke on the floor July 8 during debate on the Federal Marriage Amendment. Six spoke for the amendment, one spoke against it and three did not address the issue.

Below is a list of senators in the order they spoke and a summary of their arguments.

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

Allard said “activist” judges are on the verge of overturning all marriage laws that have been passed through the democratic process.

“It’s clear to me that we are headed to judicial-mandated recognition of same-gender couples regardless of state or federal statutes,” he said.

Allard also said America’s founding fathers would have included the definition of marriage in the Constitution had they foreseen the current marriage debate.

“Gays and lesbians have the right to live the way they want to, but they do not have the right to redefine marriage,” Allard said. “… 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.”

— Gordon Smith, R.-Ore. (for the amendment).

Smith said he’s “for gay rights” but also “for traditional marriage.” Acknowledging that his was a “nuanced” position, Smith praised the amendment for leaving room for state legislatures to legalize Vermont-type civil unions.

“[T]he Constitution of the United States is about to be amended. The question is by whom?” Smith said. “Will it be done by a few liberal judges in Massachusetts, a lawless mayor in San Francisco or clandestine county commissioners? Or by the American people in a lawful, constitutional process as laid out in our founding document?”

Answering those who say the marriage issue should be left untouched, Smith said: “If you leave it alone, you’ll leave it to others.”

— Byron Dorgan, D.-N.D (did not address FMA).

Dorgan, the first Democrat to speak after the amendment was introduced, did not address the Federal Marriage Amendment but instead spoke about the problem of high suicide rates on Indian reservations. The American Family Association lists Dorgan as likely voting against the amendment.

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

Hatch said it is a “phony” argument made by amendment opponents to say that there are more important issues that should be debated.

“I don’t know of anything — anything — in our society, or in our lives, or in our country, or in the world that is more important than preserving our traditional family definition,” Hatch said. “I don’t know of anything that is more important to children. I don’t know of anything that is more important to morality. I don’t know of anything that is more important to education. I don’t know of anything that’s more important to strengthening our country.”

Hatch acknowledged there are “other ways” that “we would rather spend our time.”

“[But] we did not choose this schedule,” he said. “The courts did. But as public representatives bound by the oath to defend the Constitution, we will not hide from our obligations.”

Hatch criticized Sen. John Kerry’s stance on the amendment. In 1996, Kerry voted against the Defense of Marriage Act and argued that it was unconstitutional, but today he says a marriage amendment is not needed because the Defense of Marriage Act is in place. Kerry now says he believes DOMA is constitutional.

“This is the grand flip-flop — one of the grandest of all time,” Hatch said.

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

Leahy said there are other more important issues, such as homeland security and budgets. He called the debate on marriage “fruitless” and said there is “no urgency.” Leahy added that the issue is being used as a “wedge issue” during an election year.

“Instead, we sit around here not doing any work on those things we absolutely need to do,” Leahy said. “Instead, we’re working on political matters — a divisive constitutional amendment to federalize marriage is an example of that.”

The issue, Leahy said, should be left up to the states.

“For 225 years we’ve left it up to the states to define marriage,” he said. “All of the sudden we’re going to tell them they don’t know what they’re doing?”

In 1996 Leahy was one of 85 senators to vote for the Defense of Marriage Act.

— Kit Bond, R.-Mo. (did not address FMA).

While it is believed that Bond supports the amendment, he did not address it during his speech. Instead, he defended the White House record on pre-war intelligence.

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

Cornyn said the definition of marriage is worth debating on the Senate floor.

“There is no issue more important in this country today than the American family and preserving the traditional institution of marriage as the most basic building block in our society and one created for children,” he said.

Cornyn said he was disappointed by the “virtually dead silence” by Democrats on the issue.

“I, for one, am just shocked and amazed at the attitude,” he said.

Noting that 85 senators voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, Cornyn said the debate over marriage “is not a partisan issue.”

“I just fail to see how any one of us can remain neutral or on the sidelines when this debate is going forward,” he said. “And, indeed, we did not choose to engage in this debate at this time on this amendment. There’s a difference between launching an attack and acting in self-defense, and the American people know the difference.”

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

Frist said the union of one man and one woman traditionally has been tied to procreation and childrearing.

“The question before us is fundamental: Should marriage remain the union between a husband and a wife?” he said.

Without a marriage amendment, Frist said, the Defense of Marriage Act will be struck down. He noted that same-sex couples from 46 states have received marriage licenses in Massachusetts, California, Oregon and New York. Courts in the latter three states have since stopped the licenses from being issued. Frist also noted that 11 states are defending their marriage laws in court.

“It has become clear that the issue is a national issue and it requires a national solution,” he said.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Frist said, is pushing for a birth certificate to read “Parent A” and “Parent B” instead of referencing the mother and father.

“We can see that the implications of radically redefining marriage are far-reaching,” he said. “They’re dramatic.”

— Frank Lautenberg, D.-N.J. (did not address FMA).

Lautenberg, who is believed to be against the amendment, did not address the issue but instead criticized President Bush on a host of international and domestic issues.

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

Criticizing the redefinition of marriage, Sessions asked why two brothers or two sisters — who are not in a sexual relationship — should be precluded from acquiring marriage licenses.

“Why don’t we call that marriage?” he asked. “… Why is it that this same-sex union is given a preferential treatment over those unions? … When you get away from the classical definition of marriage, we get into big trouble about where those lines will stay.”

Studies, Sessions said, show that children and families do better in a traditional, two-parent household.

Pointing to the secularization of Europe, where homosexual activists have made advances, he said, “[W]e can make a choice to go a different way.”

The Senate, Sessions said, is at a crossroads.

“This is a big, big moment,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for this Senate to allow the people of the United States to speak on this issue.”

The Supreme Court, Sessions said, will legalize same-sex “marriage” apart from a marriage amendment.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit

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  • Michael Foust