Senate plans mid-July vote on Federal Marriage Amendment
Posted on Jun 21, 2004 | by Michael Foust
WASHINGTON (BP)--The U.S. Senate will debate a constitutional marriage amendment in July, forcing senators to take a position on the issue of same-sex "marriage" during an election year.
Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas, Wayne Allard of Colorado and Jeff Sessions of Alabama appeared at a news conference June 18 to announce that the Senate would consider the Federal Marriage Amendment the week of July 12 -- just two weeks before the Democratic National Convention and just four months before the fall elections.
"[W]e didn't raise this issue," Cornyn said, answering criticism that the vote is politically motivated. "This issue was thrust upon us by the Massachusetts Supreme Court. It was thrust on us by the civil disobedience that occurred in San Francisco and all the litigation that's occurring around the country. ... We didn't pick the timing. It's been thrust upon us."
Don Stewart, communications director for Cornyn, told Baptist Press the issue is black and white.
"This is a very simple issue -- either you support traditional marriage and you want to protect it with a constitutional amendment, or you do not," he said.
The amendment is popular nationally, with 60 percent in a recent CBS News poll and 67 percent in a Wirthlin Worldwide poll supporting it. But that support has not translated to the Senate, where only 17 senators have signed on as sponsors.
Although the amendment needs 67 votes to pass, it first must receive 60 votes to prevent a filibuster. Stewart said there is no guarantee that the 60-vote threshold can be reached.
"I think it will be close, and hopefully we'll get 60," he said. "Hopefully people won't use an excuse to say that they want to debate more. We've had plenty of debate on this. We've had six hearings on marriage in the Senate alone."
The cloture vote could come as early as July 14, with the actual vote -- assuming there is no filibuster -- coming that weekend or early the following week, Stewart said.
In 1996 the Senate passed the Defense of Marriage Act by a vote of 85-14, with current presidential contender John Kerry casting one of the few no votes. That law prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex "marriage" and allows states to do the same.
But the political landscape has since changed, with same-sex "marriage" becoming somewhat more acceptable politically. Since 1996 two countries -- Belgium and the Netherlands -- have legalized same-sex "marriage," as have three Canadian provinces and the state of Massachusetts.
The situation in Massachusetts has led to predictions that, short of a constitutional amendment, same-sex "marriage" will be legalized nationally.
"We look forward to seeing which senators will step up to the plate and take a stand in defense of marriage next month," Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, said in a statement. "We have heard from many senators who have declined to co-sponsor the FMA but have privately said they will still vote for it. It will be interesting to see if they keep their word. This amendment is the only tool the American people have to ensure that the definition of marriage remains one man and one woman."
Conservative groups are gearing up for the vote. A book by James Dobson on the subject, "Marriage Under Fire," was released recently with the goal of educating evangelicals. In addition, a live "Battle for Marriage" church simulcast will take place July 11 featuring pro-family leaders Perkins, James Dobson and Chuck Colson and Adrian Rogers, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church. Churches can watch the simulcast via satellite or Internet and can sign up by visiting www.wevotevalues.com.
A similar simulcast in May drew several hundred churches. Colson said then that believers must call their senators if the amendment is to pass. The Capitol Hill switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.
The amendment bill is HJR 56 in the House and SJR 30 in the Senate.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex "marriage," visit www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage.