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Senate holds hearing on Federal Marriage Amendment

Senate holds hearing on Federal Marriage Amendment

Republican U.S. senator Sam Brownback of Kansas started a series of hearings on Wednesday to renew efforts to enshrine a ban on same-sex marriage in the federal Constitution, The Wichita Eagle reports. Brownback's hearing received a rocky reception. Civil liberty groups and groups supporting same-sex marriage plastered the Senate hearing room with literature questioning the need for additional federal laws on marriage. Meanwhile, Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary subcommittee that Brownback chairs, criticized Brownback for holding a hearing on what he considered a second-tier topic. But Brownback continued with what he said will be the first of several hearings examining how marriage can remain legally limited to a union of one man and one woman, free from court rulings that he says undermine the institution. Current federal law banning same-sex marriage, he said, is "increasingly at risk from an activist judiciary determined to run roughshod over...the will of the people." The Brownback hearing was the first Senate consideration of the Federal Marriage Amendment since it failed before the congressional body last July. The amendment, which Brownback cosponsored, would limit legally recognized marriages to unions between a man and woman and would invalidate state laws that permit same-sex marriage. Since it failed last year, several states have passed their own constitutional bans, most recently Kansas, which on April 5 passed a ban on same-sex marriage with 70% of the vote. Brownback and two legal scholars at the hearing maintained that state bans won't be enough because federal courts could still strike them down. But Feingold said the threat of "activist judges" is greatly exaggerated and questioned why Brownback is calling hearings on an issue states can handle on their own. Supporters of a federal amendment banning same-sex marriage "are asking us to make a preemptive strike on the Constitution," Feingold said. "That is an extreme step, and I will strongly oppose it."

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