Republican lawmakers not rushing to pass gay marriage ban
February 26 2004 12:00 AM ET
Republicans in Congress are not rushing to heed President Bush's call to quickly pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Some conservatives want a broader approach than Bush supports, and others oppose federalizing the issue.
"We're looking at other ways of doing it, knowing that it will be very difficult to pass a constitutional amendment both through the House and the Senate," House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) said. "The groups that are for a constitutional amendment are split over what it would be. We're trying to bring them all together and unify them. That's going to take some time."
Some senior House Republicans flat-out oppose the idea. "I'm not supportive of amending the Constitution on this issue," Rules Committee chairman David Dreier of California told The Washington Post. "I believe that this should go through the courts." Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) told the newspaper he is interested in language that would leave the issue to elected representatives of the states. "I've got an open mind on all of them," including Bush's approach, he said. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the matter should be left to the states, and Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) said changing the U.S. Constitution should be a last resort on almost any issue.
Bush has argued that same-sex weddings threaten the institution of marriage--and thus society--and that actions by several local jurisdictions allowing gay marriage make federal intervention the only recourse. He called on Congress "to promptly pass and to send to the states for ratification" an amendment to define marriage as a union of a man and a woman. He had opposed legalizing civil unions as governor of Texas, but Bush said he is leaving the door open for states to do so now--although the Musgrave proposal, which Bush supports, does not currentely contain language that could be interpreted to allow for other such alternatives.
Democrats promised to fight the proposed amendment and criticized Bush for wanting to use the Constitution to take away rights. They said he is trying change the subject from questions on his leadership, the economy, his Vietnam-era military service, and the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction he had alleged were in Iraq. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement that the Constitution "is not a place for political wedge issues," adding that "never before has a constitutional amendment been used to discriminate against a group of people, and we must not start now." Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) issued a statement saying, "By endorsing this shameful proposal, President Bush will go down in history as the first president to try to write bias back into the Constitution."
The gay political group Log Cabin Republicans worried that Bush risks alienating the 1 million gays and lesbians who voted for him in 2000 by pushing for the amendment. "We believe that this is a move to start a culture war, fueled and pushed by the radical right, that will end up in George Bush's defeat--and defeat for a lot of good Republicans who are with us on equality," said Mark Mead, the group's political director.