Leader of House Judiciary Committee opposes marriage amendment
Wisconsin congressman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. says he sees no need for Congress to consider amending the U.S. Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages and civil unions. Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Menomonee Falls who heads the House Judiciary Committee, said the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which he helped write, sufficiently defines marriage as being between a man and woman with respect to federal matters. "It's not necessary at this time to amend the Constitution," Sensenbrenner told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Sensenbrenner, whose committee has jurisdiction over proposals for such changes, said that in principle he opposes such marriages and civil unions.
Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.) introduced the Federal Marriage Amendment, which now has more than 70 cosponsors. No top leaders have signed on, and Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the House Republican leadership's liaison to the White House, told The Detroit News, "There are no current plans for consideration of [the amendment] or similar legislation this year." He said no action is necessary unless the federal Defense of Marriage law is struck down. The proposal has been referred to the judiciary panel's Constitution subcommittee, which has not scheduled any hearings. The Senate, though, has planned hearings on the measure after senators return from their current recess.
Amending the Constitution requires two-thirds approval of both the House and Senate and ratification by three quarters of the states. "It's been done only 27 times in over 200 years," Sensenbrenner said. "It's very strong medicine."