Republican senators heading to their home states for the long Memorial Day weekend have been urged by party leaders to promote the proposed U.S. constitutional amendment backed by President Bush that would ban same-sex marriage forever. Some say the move breathes new life into the controversial topic less than six months before the November elections, according to a report by the congressional newspaper Roll Call. Senate Republican Conference chairman Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania admitted that supporters of the ban don't have the 67 votes needed to send the measure to the states for ratification. But he vowed to force a vote on the issue before the election in order to compel senators to take a position on the issue. "I intend to work very hard to get a vote," Santorum told Roll Call. "I have made it clear that is my desire, and I believe the Senate should go on the record."
Republican senators were issued talking points on the subject twice last week, first as part of the GOP's weekly message plan on Tuesday and later in a Memorial Day recess packet that also emphasized other issues such as the economy and the Iraq war. "This is a national crisis that requires a national response, a federal constitutional amendment," reads one of the talking points contained in both packets. In addition to nine bullet points on same-sex marriage, the GOP memo also includes the "Top Five Reasons to Defend Marriage." Reason number 3 states, "Redefining marriage sends a terrible message to the next generation: Alternative family forms are just as good as traditional families, and children don't need mothers and fathers."
The Senate and House have held hearings on the subject, and while GOP leaders mostly support a ban on gay marriage, the timing of a vote on a constitutional amendment remains unclear in both chambers, according to Roll Call. Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said that a "constitutional amendment...is consistent with the values of the United States of America," but he would not commit to a specific date for a vote. A spokesman for House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) also would not offer a fixed date when the legislation would come up for a House vote. "We are not at a point yet where a consensus is clear," said Jonathan Grella, a DeLay spokesman. "It is hard to speculate when the right time would be."