Marriage amendment sponsor Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.
The Senate rejected a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, but supporters say the measure is gaining ground and today’s vote should help energize the Republican base.
The 49-48 tally was 11 short of the 60 needed to hold an up-or-down vote by the full Senate. A roll call showing how senators voted can be found here.
A sponsor of the joint resolution, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., warned opponents will have to answer for their positions.
“People are going to be responsible for this vote,” he said. “We are making progress in America on defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.”
Forty-five states have acted to define marriage in traditional terms, as a union between one man and one woman.
But one GOP opponent, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told the Senate he won’t support the federal amendment because most Americans “are not yet convinced that their elected representatives or the judiciary are likely to expand decisively the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.”
Along with McCain, Republicans Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Judd Gregg, Arlen Specter, Lincoln Chafee and John Sununu voted against the cloture vote, which would end debate and move to an up-or-down tally. Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson and Robert Byrd voted for cloture.
Supporters argue an amendment is needed because of “judicial activism,” as courts have overturned marriage-protection acts in several states.
Yesterday, 81 percent of Alabama voters backed the state’s proposed constitutional amendment recognizing marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Also, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted 136-61 in favor of that state’s Marriage Protection Amendment, the first step in the process toward full adoption.
The Senate’s joint resolution says:
“Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. 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.”
A new ABC News poll shows affirms most Americans support the amendment’s definition of marriage, as between one man and one woman, but an equal number oppose amending the Constitution.
One new supporter, however, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., pointed out the measure is gaining new votes.
“That’s often what’s required over several years to get there, particularly to a two-thirds vote,” he said.
A two-thirds majority is required to send an amendment to the states for ratification by three-quarters of the union.
After the vote, Senate Majority leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., told reporters: For thousands of years, marriage ? the union between a man and a woman ? has been recognized as an essential cornerstone of society. … We must continue fighting to ensure the Constitution is amended by the will of the people rather than by judicial activism.”
The House plans to take up the amendment next month, said Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. The vote will only be ceremonial, however, because constitutional amendments must first be passed by the Senate.
“This is an issue that is of significant importance to many Americans,” Boehner said. “We have significant numbers of our members who want a vote on this, so we are going to have a vote.”
A House vote in 2004 fell short of the two-thirds support required.
Jan LaRue, chief counsel of Concerned Women for America, said in a statement it’s “inconceivable that the U.S. Senate didn’t ‘deem it necessary’ to protect marriage by refusing even to vote on the amendment.”
“Our country cannot function with radically different definitions of what constitutes this sacred union,” she said. “If the founders could have imagined a time when same-sex ‘marriage’ would be forced upon the people by judicial fiat, they would have established a uniform rule of marriage in the Constitution just as they did for naturalization and bankruptcy.”
CWA says it supports a single-sentence amendment that would strictly define marriage as between one man and one woman, and not leave any room for misinterpretation.
LaRue said it also would “remove cover from those in Congress who use their alleged concerns for civil unions to prevent Americans from voting to preserve marriage.”
Some opponents, including Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., have impugned the motives of the amendment’s supporters. Kennedy said a vote for the amendment would be a “vote for bigotry, pure and simple.”
Robert Knight, director of CWA’s Culture & Family Institute called Kennedy’s statement the “crudest and dumbest point made by a liberal opposing a federal marriage amendment.”
Knight said another point made by opponents is that “we have more important things to do.”
“Really?” he responded. “There’s nothing more important than protecting marriage and families, because without them, the United States faces a bleak future in which government is ‘Daddy and Mommy’ and the state keeps growing to pick up the pieces of the shattered social order. Marriage-phobic Europe is fast committing social suicide, but we don’t have to let liberals take the United States down that path.”
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