Judge's ruling convinces senator to support federal marriage amend.

by Michael Foust, posted Friday, June 10, 2005 (14 years ago)

LINCOLN, Neb. (BP)--A federal judge's ruling in May striking down Nebraska's marriage amendment has persuaded one of the state's senators, Democrat Ben Nelson, to support a marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Focus on the Family issued a statement June 10 saying Nelson had told the organization he now supports a marriage amendment. Nelson spokesman David DiMartino subsequently confirmed to Baptist Press that the senator does indeed support an amendment. As late as last summer, Nelson said he opposed an amendment, believing it was best to leave the issue of "gay marriage" up to the states.

Nelson's support gives marriage amendment sponsors a critical Democratic ally.

"His position has always been that he thinks marriage should be regulated by the states, and that he would support a federal effort to amend the Constitution only if a federal court overruled a state law," DiMartino told BP. "And that has now happened."

In May U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon overturned Nebraska's marriage amendment, ruling it was discriminatory and made homosexuals "unequal." The amendment bans both "gay marriage" and Vermont-style civil unions. The ruling is being appealed.

Focus on the Family's James Dobson applauded Nelson's support.

"Sen. Nelson is to be commended for reevaluating his position on the need for the Marriage Protection Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in light of Judge Bataillon's incomprehensible ruling," Dobson said in a statement. "The senator now joins millions of Americans who recognize the threat posed by arrogant and activist judges who would deprive the people of their right to govern themselves. We look forward to working with Sen. Nelson to pass the MPA in the months ahead."

Focus on the Family said Nelson had pledged to support an amendment in both a telephone call and a follow-up letter.

Last summer a federal marriage amendment was blocked from receiving an up-or-down vote in the Senate. Needing 60 votes to cut off debate, it got 48. Although Nelson was one of those 48 senators who supported limiting debate, he apparently was prepared to vote against the amendment itself.

In February 2004 he told the Associated Press: "The states should decide whether to ban same-sex marriages.... I fail to see where this has reached national proportions where a federal constitutional amendment is necessary."

Asked whether Nelson would sign on as a co-sponsor of the amendment, DiMartino said, "He's going to support the effort whenever it comes up."

Nebraska's amendment is not the only one being challenged in federal court. A federal lawsuit was filed June 8 against Michigan's marriage amendment. Oklahoma's amendment also is being challenged in federal court.

Bataillon's ruling marked the first time a marriage amendment had been overturned. Including Nebraska, 18 states have adopted such amendments, and voters have passed them by an average margin of 70-30 percent.

Amendments to the U.S. Constitution cannot be overturned in court. They require the support of two-thirds of the House and Senate and three-fourths of the states.

The marriage amendment in the U.S. Senate is Senate Joint Resolution 1 and in the House is House Joint Resolution 39.


For more information about the national debate over "gay marriage," visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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