SUMMARY: What senators said during debate Tuesday

by Michael Foust, posted Tuesday, June 06, 2006 (8 years ago)

To read the story about Tuesday's marriage amendment debate, click here.

WASHINGTON (BP)--Twenty-six senators spoke on the floor during debate on the Marriage Protection Amendment June 6. Thirteen supported the amendment, 12 opposed it and one said he supported only one sentence of the amendment. Following is a sampling of what senators said, in order of when they spoke:

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

"Marriage -- the union of a man and a woman -- has been the foundation of every civilization in human history. It is incorporated into the fabric of our culture and civil life. It is the platform on which children, families and communities are nurtured. Unfortunately, the U.S. Constitution is being amended to reflect a new definition of marriage -- not by democratically elected members of Congress, but by unaccountable and unelected judges."

"… I am not willing to surrender this issue to the courts," he said, adding that the Marriage Protection Amendment "protects states' rights."

"My amendment takes the issue out of the hands of a handful of activist judges and puts it squarely back in the hands of the people," said Allard, the amendment's sponsor.

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

Brownback said that the natural, traditional definition of marriage is essential for raising the next generation of children.

"[W]e know from all the social data, in all societies, at all times, that the best place to raise children is [within] the union of a man and a woman," he said. "… You can raise good children in other settings, but the best -- the optimal setting -- is in the union between a man and a woman, bonded together for life. … That's something we've got social data on, but we also know that in our hearts."

-- Rick Santorum, R.-Pa., supports the amendment.

Answering those who say the marriage amendment debate is driven solely by politics, Santorum said Republican leaders, for the past year, had considered scheduling debate following a high-profile court ruling -- such as a decision on "gay marriage" out of the Washington state Supreme Court. But, so far, the Washington court has yet to issue a ruling, even though it heard the case in March 2005.

"Late last year we decided that we weren't going to wait around any more for courts, and we set this date for the first of June," Santorum said. "… If it was purely politics, let me assure you -- we'd be debating this in September."

The foundation for the legalization of "gay marriage" in America, Santorum said, was laid when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision overturning anti-sodomy laws. When the Massachusetts high court legalized "gay marriage," Santorum said, its majority opinion cited Lawrence five times.

"When a court makes a judicial decision, they do so based on a judicial foundation that has a logical and rational basis to it and has logical consequences to it. … What Massachusetts did was the logical [conclusion] from Lawrence vs. Texas. … It is the basis upon which they built their decision."

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

"This is not what the American people want to be talking about," Reid said.

Republicans and Democrats both believe the Senate should be debating other issues, Reid said.

"With rare exception, they say that we are wasting the taxpayer's time doing this," he said.

The Bush administration, Reid said, has its "priorities" out of line.

-- Dick Durbin, D.-Ill., opposes the amendment.

"We're going to spend three or four days this week on an amendment that doesn't have a chance [to pass], that ranks 33rd [in] the Gallup poll when it comes to the interests of the American people," Durbin said. "… Why are we doing this? Why aren't we focusing on the issues that count, if we have so little time [left in the legislative session]?"

-- John Warner, R.-Va., has concerns with the amendment in its current form.

Warner said he supports the first sentence of the amendment -- which defines marriage as between one man and one woman -- but that the second sentence causes him "concern." The second sentence states: "Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman."

That sentence, he said, lacks "clarity" and is hard for the average American to understand.

"I am concerned that the second sentence of this proposed constitutional amendment is unnecessarily vague and could well trample on the rights [of the states]," he said.

-- James Inhofe, R.-Okla., supports the amendment.

"Gay marriage," he said, can have a broad negative impact on society. He quoted a study that found that in Sweden and Norway -- two countries that grant homosexual couples marital benefits -- more than half of the children are born out of wedlock.

"What's going to be the result of this?" Inhofe asked. "… Millions of them are going to end up on welfare."

-- Frank Lautenberg, D.-N.J., opposes the amendment.

"I have lots of visitors in my offices in New Jersey and here [in Washington], and not one of them came in to talk to me about gay marriage," Lautenberg said. "They came in to talk to me about health insurance. They came to talk to me about their pensions disappearing …"

-- Russ Feingold, D.-Wis., opposes the amendment.

Feingold, one of two senators openly to support "gay marriage" -- Edward Kennedy is the other -- said the amendment would make homosexuals "permanent second-class citizens."

"Gays and lesbian Americans are our friends, our family members, our neighbors, our colleagues," Feingold said. "They should not be used as pawns in a cynical political exercise."

-- David Vitter, R.-La., supports the amendment.

"[Louisiana] passed a state constitutional marriage amendment … with 78 percent of the vote," he said. "The folks in Louisiana want those values upheld. They don't want them redefined radically by activist courts -- particularly … courts in other states like Massachusetts. And make no mistake -- that is what is happening."

-- Orrin Hatch, R.-Utah, supports the amendment.

"Yesterday the distinguished Democratic leader came to the floor … with a laundry list of issues that we could be addressing instead of this amendment," Hatch said. "[But] ultimately, I think we are capable of chewing gum and walking at the same time. In two days we will be taking up floor time to debate a bill to create a race-based government for the state of Hawaii. I will not hold my breath waiting for these same folks to argue then that we should be discussing more pressing issues."

Hatch added his phone has "been ringing off the hook" in support of the amendment.

Addressing those who argue the amendment is discriminatory, Hatch pointed to Americans' opposition to "gay marriage" and asked, "The beliefs of most Americans in this country are discriminatory? Of course not. … Was it discrimination when 85 members of this body -- including 32 Democrats -- voted for DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act [in 1996]? Of course not. Was it discrimination when President Bill Clinton signed it? No."

-- John Thune, R.-S.D., supports the amendment.

"Nothing is more fundamental, nothing is more important to the fabric of the American society than the family," Thune said. "And that is what this debate is really all about. … Yet today … this pillar of our society is under attack by some who are pursuing a narrow social agenda designed to destroy the definition of marriage that has existed since the birth of civilization."

-- John McCain, R.-Ariz., opposes the amendment.

"I do not at this time support the proposed Marriage Protection Amendment," he said. "The proposed amendment would establish in our Constitution a permanent resolution of debate that is currently and properly being resolved in different ways in 50 different states by the peoples' elected representatives."

McCain expressed confidence that the federal courts -- particularly with Judges Alito and Roberts now on the Supreme Court -- will uphold the traditional definition of marriage. But McCain added that he could support the amendment someday -- for instance, if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the federal Defense of Marriage Act or if an appeals court rules Nebraska's marriage amendment unconstitutional. (A lower court struck down Nebraska's amendment, and the decision was appealed.)

-- Jon Kyl, R.-Ariz., supports the amendment.

"In July 2004 we were looking only at Massachusetts," Kyl said, referring to the last time the marriage amendment was debated, shortly after Massachusetts' highest court legalized "gay marriage."

"Today state courts in four other states have followed Massachusetts' lead. … [T]he concern about the courts intruding into this area is not a hypothetical future concern, but a reality today."

-- Edward Kennedy, D.-Mass., opposes the amendment.

"A vote in support of this amendment has nothing to do with the protection of marriage," said Kennedy, who supports "gay marriage."

"A vote for it is a vote against civil unions, against domestic partnerships, against all other efforts by states to treat gays and lesbians fairly under the law. It's a vote to impose discrimination on all 50 states, and to deny them the right to write and interpret their state constitutions and state laws."

-- Mark Dayton, D.-Minn., opposes the amendment.

"[F]or the first in our nation's history, the proponents of this amendment would add discrimination to our Constitution," Dayton said. "They would tell one group of people -- a social minority -- that equal rights and equal protection do not apply to them."

-- Tom Harkin, D.-Iowa, opposes the amendment.

"The only thing lower than President Bush's polls right [is the] standing of Congress," Harkin said. "No wonder why -- look at what we're debating here, while all of these other issues go by the wayside. What about the real needs and concerns of working American families?"

-- Patty Murray, D.-Wash, opposes the amendment.

"Why are we spending time on political games when we have soldiers in harm's way who are serving us honorably around the world?" she asked. "Don't they deserve better than this? Why is the Senate bringing up divisive issues, when we need right now more than ever to come together as a country and address the challenges that confront us?"

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

"This is not an issue that we have gratuitously brought up. This is one that has been forced upon us [by the courts]," Cornyn said. "I guess what our colleagues on the other side of the aisle would prefer is [that] we just be quiet and gradually allow the Constitution of the United States to be amended … by a handful of activist judges."

-- Mel Martinez, R.-Fla., supports the amendment.

Reading the text of the amendment, Martinez said, "To suggest that that's not an important issue for our nation … is simply not to be dealing with this subject truthfully. ... I believe that this marriage amendment takes a measured and reasonable approach to the problem of courts redefining marriage."

-- Jim Talent, R.-Mo., supports the amendment.

"It's clear that there's a well-organized and deliberate movement in this country to redefine marriage, to change our most social institution, without regard to the right of the people to govern themselves," he said. "Unless we pass a constitutional amendment, we'll allow the courts of this country to disenfranchise tens of millions of Americans on an issue that is of greater importance to them on a day to day basis -- because it involves the way in which their children and other peoples' children are going to be raised -- than most of the legislation that we debate."

-- Dianne Feinstein, D.-Calif., opposes the amendment.

"[A]ll family law has historically been relegated to the states. That's marriage, divorce, adoption [and] custody. All aspects of family law and domestic relations have been the province of the states. That's what the Supreme Court has said in case after case. … States are well able to handle marriage on their own."

-- Richard Shelby, R.-Ala., supports the amendment.

"[J]udges have taken upon themselves to make decisions reserved for state legislatures … [T]hese activist judges do not have to be responsive to anyone and are accountable to no one. Abraham Lincoln reminded us in the Gettysburg Address that we have a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Activist judges, accountable to no one, should not be allowed to govern this country."

-- Jeff Sessions, R.-Ala., supports the amendment.

"We are not here because of some political agenda. [Instead,] traditional, mainstream Americans were going about their business when out of the blue, courts began a pattern of rulings that subverted democratic principles and subverted a long-held meaning of marriage."

-- Tom Carper, D.-Del., opposes the amendment.

Carper said he believes marriage is between a man and a woman and added that, as governor, he signed a law in his own state protecting the natural definition of marriage. But he said he opposes the amendment.

"I'm not convinced that, given the action of my own state and 45 other states and the actions of the Congress [in 1996 in passing the Defense of Marriage Act] … that we need to enshrine into the Constitution … what we've already enshrined into state laws and federal law."

-- Barbara Boxer, D.-Calif., opposes the amendment.

"I think [the amendment] is divisive. I think it's unnecessary," she said. "… [T]he proposed amendment is nothing more than a cynical election-year ploy."


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