New bill in House would ban same-sex 'marriage' nationwide

by Michael Foust, posted Friday, July 23, 2004 (10 years ago)

WASHINGTON (BP)--An Oklahoma congressman introduced a bill July 22 that goes a step beyond current law by banning same-sex "marriage" nationwide -- including in Massachusetts -- and unlike a constitutional amendment, requires only a simple majority to pass.

Called the National Marriage Law, the bill, if passed, would supercede state laws, thereby voiding Massachusetts' law legalizing same-sex "marriage." In addition, the law would prevent state courts or lower federal courts from hearing challenges to it. Only the Supreme Court would be able to review it.

Sponsored by Rep. Ernest Istook, R.-Okla., the bill has 37 co-sponsors.

"This is the only [bill] which will stop same-sex marriages from occurring immediately," Micah Swafford, press secretary for Istook, told Baptist Press. "It will supercede state laws."

Under the current federal law called the Defense of Marriage Act, states are allowed to legalize same-sex "marriage, although other states can refuse to recognize those "marriages." DOMA also prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex "marriage."

Istook's bill goes a step beyond DOMA by protecting the traditional definition of marriage coast to coast.

Swafford said the bill is meant to be a short-term solution until a constitutional marriage amendment can pass. While an amendment requires the support of two-thirds of both the House and Senate, as well as the support of three-fourths of the states, Swafford's bill would need only the support of a simple majority in each chamber. State legislatures would not be involved.

"[Istook] definitely supports a Federal Marriage Amendment," Swafford said. "We believe marriage is important enough ... that it deserves constitutional protection. But we need a backup plan and we need something that takes effect immediately. It's a long process to amend the Constitution and very difficult, and we need a stop-gap measure until we're able to get a constitutional amendment."

By a vote of 233-194, The House passed a bill July 22 that prevents federal courts, including the Supreme Court, from reviewing the Defense of Marriage Act. While that bill prevents federal courts from forcing same-sex "marriage" on the states, it does nothing to prevent a state court from legalizing homosexual "marriage."

"We need a national standard for marriage,” Istook said in a statement. “The institution of marriage is too important to our families and to our society to let a few activist judges control this issue."

Massachusetts' same-sex "marriage" law came following an order by that state's highest court.

Swafford said GOP leaders are "supportive" of Istook’s bill.

"There's a lot of people out there who feel that we need to do whatever we can to protect marriage," she said.

There is precedence for national laws pre-empting state laws, Istook says.

"For example, Congress outlawed polygamy and the Supreme Court upheld Congress’ power to do so," a statement from his office reads. "Federal statute preempts most state laws under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and states are prohibited from enacting laws, constitutions or other provisions that are inconsistent with the federal statute. This applies but is not limited to issues such as consumer leases, credit billing, hazardous substances, motor vehicle safety, traffic safety, and over-the counter drugs."

The first sentence of the Istook bill is identical to the first sentence of the Federal Marriage Amendment: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman."

The bill is HR 4892.


For more information about the national debate over same-sex "marriage," visit

http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage