Gay-Marriage Ban Faces Loss in Early Vote
By CARL HULSE
Published: July 14, 2004
WASHINGTON, July 13 - Senate Republican leaders face defeat in their
push to add an amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage to the
Constitution, with opponents expressing confidence that they will easily
muster the votes Wednesday to either block the proposal's consideration
or defeat it outright.
The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, acknowledged as much on Tuesday
as senators spent a third day offering their views on an issue that has
become a prominent feature of the election-year landscape. He said the
Senate action would be far from the last word.
"This is the start," Dr. Frist said. "And it's not going to be over
tomorrow. We'll be back in the future."
Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers said backers of the amendment,
which has the strong support of President Bush, were struggling to line
up even a simple majority of 51 senators on their side. They need at
least 60 votes to cut off debate and 67 votes to approve the amendment.
Democrats said the looming defeat proved their chief point that
Republicans were cynically pushing a proposal they knew could not pass
in an effort to create an election-year division to motivate
conservative voters and draw a contrast with Democrats.
"Why, in this election year, are we debating an amendment to the
Constitution designed to restrict the rights of gay Americans?" asked
Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey. "It's clearly not a
legitimate legislative debate, as there are nowhere near enough votes to
pass this amendment."
Republican sponsors said they were driven to pursue the amendment by a
court decision that allowed same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, a
development they said could spread throughout the nation and undermine
traditional marriage. The lawmakers also sought to counter the criticism
that they were promoting discrimination, saying they were motivated by a
desire to preserve a traditional family environment for children.
"You can say I'm a hater," said Senator Rick Santorum, Republican of
Pennsylvania and a leading proponent of the amendment. "But I would
argue I'm a lover. I'm a lover of traditional families and children who
deserve the right to have a mother and father."
While most Democrats were opposing the amendment as unnecessary given an
existing federal law defining marriage as the union of a man and a
woman, and permitting states to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages
that take place in other states, Republicans were divided.
Some said they would buck their leadership and join Democrats in
opposing the effort to cut off debate, effectively killing the amendment
for the year. Others, like Senator John W. Warner, Republican of
Virginia, said they would join Republican leaders in trying to overcome
the procedural hurdle but were opposed to the amendment because it could
be interpreted to prevent state-sanctioned civil unions.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said the split
resulted partly from the fact that the Judiciary Committee was bypassed
to bring the proposal directly to the floor.
"Trying to write discrimination into the Constitution is bad enough," he
said. "But throwing the Senate's rules out the window and proceeding
with a discriminatory amendment that the majority of Americans don't
want and a majority of senators don't support - solely for the purpose
of trying to score points in a presidential election campaign - demeans
this institution and all who have served in it."