Paul Weyrich
July 14, 2004
Traditional marriage: The vote is in
By Paul Weyrich

The Senate voted 48 to 50 to defeat the Marriage Protection Amendment today.

Before the vote was cast, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, (R-TN) told the Senate, "The question is no longer whether the Constitution will be amended. The only question is who will amend it and how it will be amended. Will activist judges — not elected by the American people — destroy the institution of marriage? Or will the people protect marriage as the best way to raise children? My vote is with the people and, thus, as Majority Leader, I felt and continue to feel that it's important that the debate go on the floor of the United States Senate, which does represent the American people. Americans understand that children need mothers and fathers. We'd be foolish to permit a vast, untested social experiment on families and children — the bedrock of our society."

The Senate — by their action and inaction — passed judgment on the need to make clear that marriage is to be defined in our country as a covenant strictly between a man and a woman. Our goal was to have the Senate and, later this year, the House each decide to refer the Marriage Protection Amendment to the States for ratification. For now, the definition of marriage remains in the hands of unelected judges.

Three Democrats, Robert Byrd, (D-WV), Zell Miller, (D-GA), and Ben Nelson, (D-NE), joined 45 Republicans in supporting the MPA.

Six Republicans opposed the Amendment: Lincoln Chafee, (R-RI), Ben Nighthorse Campbell, (R-CO), Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, (R-ME), John Sununu, (R-NH), and John McCain, (R-AZ).

Forty-three Democrats opposed the MPA.

Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry and his running mate, Senator John Edwards say they oppose the Amendment while supporting limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. They said states should be allowed to address the issue. Their actions speak louder than their words. They never showed up to vote.

For the past two weeks President Bush has made it abundantly clear that he stands with us on this important issue.

The grassroots are coming to understand the importance of this issue. No true believing Christian or Jew can afford to sit this fight out. The fight is not over. You must continue to speak up to ensure Washington understands we want the Judeo-Christian concept of marriage clearly and formally recognized in our Constitution. You must keep in mind where your Senator stood on this vote as Election Day approaches. This past weekend many Christian churches held "Protect Marriage Sunday" to make certain their congregations understand the importance of marriage before the expected vote later in the coming week. More actions like this will keep the issue on the political front burner.

It's important that those who believe in marriage as a covenant between a man, a woman and God emphasize to Washington that the Marriage Protection Amendment (MPA) remains a priority. It takes 60 votes to have legislation considered (cloture). Today was not our day.

Some Senators claimed they are taking a "wait and see" attitude toward the courts, insisting that they do not favor passing judgment on the MPA until the courts strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. These Senators were using that rationale as the fig leaf to cover their vote against cloture, in essence to delay having to take a clear-cut stand on the MPA. Now we know where they stand.

Don't let them get away with it!

Voting against cloture has to be viewed as a vote against the Marriage Protection Amendment.

Conservatives in Congress banded together to pass the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 after Hawaii's highest court had struck down the State's marriage statute that held marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman. (Later, the State's voters cast their ballots for a State Constitutional Amendment to preserve traditional marriage.)

DOMA accomplished two objectives. It provided States with a license not to sanction same-sex marriages of other States, something that they otherwise would be required to do under the "full faith and credit" clause as it is currently interpreted in the United States Constitution. Furthermore, it spells out what has been a commonly accepted fact of United States law: marriage is a legal union between a man and a woman...there has been no other accepted definition for all recorded history. Additionally, at least 38 States have some form of "State DOMA" which defines marriage as between one man and one woman under State law.

Now, that definition is clearly threatened by the advocates of same-sex marriage, particularly in wake of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's decision to recognize same-sex marriages. The court cited the United States Supreme Court's decision earlier that year in Lawrence v. Texas, in which the court struck down Texas' anti-sodomy laws.

Anticipating what was to come in wake of the Lawrence decision, the Senate Republican Policy Committee issued a report last summer that stated: "If marriage is redefined in the foreseeable future, it will not be because of democratic decisions, but because of a few judges who, in response to a carefully crafted activist agenda, take upon themselves the power to do so."

Indeed, Justice Scalia, in his dissent from the majority opinion of the United States Supreme Court, insisted that the decision, "...dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned. If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is 'no legitimate state interest' for purposes of proscribing that conduct...what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising '[t]he liberty protected by the Constitution?'"

Now that the green light has been given by the Supreme Court to the States to redefine marriage as they so choose, it is clear that a Marriage Protection Amendment is absolutely critical to maintaining the traditional definition of marriage. The efforts to pass State-level definitions of marriage are to be welcomed, but when Professor Teresa Stanton Collett testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year, she made clear that State-level regulation is insufficient.

    "This is because of the very real possibility that the United States Supreme Court will impose an obligation on states to recognize same-sex unions as marriages in the guise of constitutional adjudication. Building on the Court's statements in Lawrence v. Texas equating heterosexual and homosexual experiences, and its statement in Romer v. Evans attributing animus to those who would make any distinctions, many constitutional law scholars have opined that the Court appears poised to mandate same-sex marriages in the upcoming years."

Professor Collett quotes Erwin Chemerinsky, Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California that Justice Scalia's dissent was most likely correct in its prediction that "laws that prohibit same-sex marriage cannot, in the long term, survive the reasoning of the majority in Lawrence." She then made clear that the people must act before the Court "takes the issue away from them."

Jon Bruning, Attorney General of Nebraska, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he believed "this country is heading down a path that will allow the judiciary branch to create a national policy for same-sex marriages. I am here because I believe such a national policy should be crafted by the States in the first instance, or at a minimum by Congress with the approval of the States. The ultimate question for you, as members of the United States Senate, is whether you believe this issue should be resolved by judges or by the American people, through you, their elected representatives."

Marriage is the most important institution in American society. It is vital to ensuring social stability, truly the most important social safety net of our country. A man and a woman who are married act together as a team to share the moral and financial responsibilities of raising children. Consistently, surveys show that children from homes with intact marriages, particularly those that emphasize religion, do better in life and their families are better prepared to weather tough times.

Allowing homosexual "marriage" will represent the death knell for traditional marriage. It will lead to significant changes in how marriage is presented to children, promoting lifestyles that are detrimental to physical and mental health as well as the strength of American society as a whole.

The Bible counsels that marriage is to be between a man and a woman and that homosexual activity is indeed sinful. An associate of mine recently said, "Many in our society seriously misunderstand what God intended when he gave us His instruction manual. For instance, theft destroys the basis of trust needed in a civil society. Adultery destroys families and casts chaos into future generations. The morality expressed in the [Bible] reflects the nature of the universe. These are words of wisdom from the manufacturer."

You cannot abstain. No sitting it out...not if you believe in traditional marriage as the foundational building block of society. We must continue to make clear in unmistakable terms that we want the Marriage Protection Amendment. We elected our Senators to take considered stands on issues important to our country. The protection of marriage is one of those issues. It's important this election year to put legislators on record as to just where you stand on marriage and its importance to America. Your letters, faxes, and phone calls to Capitol Hill must continue to make that clear.

We must continue pressing forward. The war is still ours to win!

© Paul Weyrich


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Paul Weyrich

Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation... (more)

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