Senate version of federal marriage amendment introduced
November 27 2003 12:00 AM ET
A proposed federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman was introduced in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday. Colorado Republican Wayne Allard is sponsoring the Federal Marriage Amendment, with Republicans Sam Brownback of Kansas and Alabama's Jeff Sessions as cosponsors. The measure was previously introduced in the House of Representatives, where it has 100 cosponsors. It would allow state legislatures to provide benefits for same-sex couples but block courts from requiring them to do so. Congressional votes on the Federal Marriage Amendment aren't expected this year, but the measure could be reintroduced when Congress reconvenes in January. The Senate action follows last week's ruling by Massachusetts's highest court that a law banning same-sex marriage violates the state constitution and must be remedied by legislators.
Allard is the fourth Coloradan in Congress to endorse the cause. His amendment is identical to the House version, which was introduced by Colorado Republican Marilyn Musgrave. "The language is simple, direct, and to the point," Allard said on the Senate floor. "This union is sacred and must remain so." Musgrave applauded Allard for "joining the effort to defend marriage as it has been known in the United States for over 200 years."
But critics argue that the latest proposal is nothing more than an extreme overreaction to the Massachusetts decision. "They label themselves true conservatives, but true conservatives believe in states' rights," said Mark Mead, a spokesman for the Log Cabin Republicans, a group representing gay members of the GOP. "A sweeping marriage amendment would prohibit the states from having
governance over these acts. It's a very liberal position, not a very conservative position."
Allard cited states' rights concerns in August when he introduced the Religious Liberties Restoration Act. That bill would let states decide for themselves whether to allow such things as the posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings or the government's use of the "one nation under God" motto. "You can't pick on which issues you're for states' rights," Mead said of Allard. "He's talking out of both sides of his mouth."
A federal constitutional amendment would require a two-thirds majority vote in the House and the Senate and ratification by three fourths of the states.