House lawmakers battle Federal Marriage Amendment
July 17 2003 12:00 AM ET
A group of House lawmakers are rallying opposition to a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriages--and they're using Vice President Dick Cheney's own words to make their point. In a letter to colleagues, Rep. Barney Frank quoted Cheney as saying the same-sex marriage issue is appropriately decided by each state and not by the federal government. "I think we ought to do everything we can to tolerate and accommodate whatever kind of relationships people want to enter into," Cheney said during a vice presidential debate in 2000. Republican lawmakers are rounding up cosponsors for a constitutional amendment, favored by Senate majority leader Bill Frist, that would ban gay marriages nationwide.
In the letter to their House colleagues, Frank, Rep. Tammy Baldwin, and Rep. Jim Kolbe said they don't always agree with Cheney on public policy. But they said his answer during the debate makes a strong case against a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. "We urge that those who share the vice president's commitment to federalism...refrain from sponsoring a constitutional amendment which would repudiate the statement he made here," the letter stated. Frank, who is gay, has routinely introduced legislation to provide benefits to domestic partners of gay federal employees, but it has not passed.
The debate surrounding the Federal Marriage Amendment is heating up as the Massachusetts supreme court weighs whether to legalize same-sex unions. The high-profile case, which was brought by seven gay couples who were denied marriage licenses, has attracted international attention--with advocates on both sides predicting the Massachusetts court could become the first in the nation to legalize gay marriage. A decision was expected this week, but the deadline has been extended. The White House, meanwhile, is reviewing the proposed amendment as well as other options, including strengthening the Defense of Marriage Act. That law allows states not to recognize same-sex unions from other states. White House officials have also said that Bush wants to see how the Massachusetts court rules.