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July 21, 2006

U.S. ban amendment fails for the fouth time in two years

Washington, D.C.--It needed 290 votes to pass. It got only 236. But a proposed amendment to the federal constitution banning same-sex marriage picked up nine votes over the last time it came up in the House, in October 2004.

The July 18 vote marked the fourth time in two years the amendment failed to get the constitutionally mandated two-thirds majority--twice in the Senate, twice in the House. The vote against it this time was 187, with one vote of �present.�

No one thought it would pass the House, and since it failed in the Senate last month, it didn�t matter if it did. But it is a key element in what House Republicans call their �American values agenda.�

In an attempt to throw political �red meat� to social conservatives to change the subject of discourse away from war, gas prices and national debt, House Republican leader John Boehner of Cincinnati said, �The American values agenda is a collection of legislative initiatives that speak to the values many American citizens hold dear. Freedom to display the American flag . . . freedom of religious expression . . . the right to keep and bear arms . . . respect for the sanctity of marriage, and the dignity of all human life.�

Boehner and House leaders plan to continue this plan through November�s election by also bringing up proposals to prevent the words �under God� from being ruled unconstitutional in the Pledge of Allegiance, preventing attorneys who sue public officials for mixing religion and government from collecting fees, bans on human cloning and making internet gambling illegal.

Sponsor confused on House floor

The amendment, this time called the �Marriage Protection Amendment� was sponsored by Colorado third-term member Marilyn Musgrave, who also sponsored the 2004 version, and 134 co-sponsors including Boehner and Ohioans Steve Chabot of Cincinnati, Mike Oxley of Findlay, and Mike Turner of Dayton, all Republicans.

The amendment reads: �Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.�

Musgrave�s effort to ban gay marriages began in 1994 during her freshman term as a state representative, when she pushed a ban through the legislature after a Hawaii court said that state had to allow same-sex unions. Her bill was vetoed twice by then-governor Roy Romer, a Democrat. Musgrave reintroduced the bill every year until it was signed into law in 2000 by Republican governor Bill Owens.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington lists Musgrave as �one of the 13 most corrupt members of Congress� for alleged franking violations and �misuse of official resources.� She is known for having done little except Christian conservative legislative work.

Musgrave got confused on the protocol for taking and leaving the House floor when she introduced her bill and needed prompting from Georgia�s Jack Kingston, who managed the debate in favor of passage.

Once on the floor, Musgrave revealed the real reason the measure was brought up.

�The people have a right to know whether their elected representatives agree with them about protecting traditional marriage,� said Musgrave.

Conflated with polygamy

Ninety minutes of debate was split evenly between proponents and opponents, after another hour of debate on the resolution bringing the amendment forward.

During that time, Democrat Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland raised questions about the constitutionality of the amendment.

�Mr. Speaker, the 14th amendment, section 1, says that no one shall be denied equal protection of the laws. Now, if this would pass, would this legislation, this constitutional amendment, supersede that provision of the 14th amendment and make that provision of the 14th amendment null and void?� Kucinich wanted to know.

Kucinich, who favors marriage equality, said, �Government does not belong in the bedroom or secretly listening on your phone, reading your books, reviewing your e-mails. Government does not have a rightful role in determining who you should love, who should love whom, and therefore enter into the formalization of a civil marriage contract.�

North Carolina�s Virgina Foxx, a Republican and amendment sponsor, set the tone for much of the proponents� comments, saying, �This constitutional amendment would concretely define marriage as we always have: as the union between one man and one woman. The disintegration of the family is the force behind so many of our most serious social problems. We cannot turn a blind eye to the social trends that are doing the most damage to America�s children. The health of American families is built upon marriage, and it affects us all.�

California Republican Daniel Lungren conflated same-sex marriage and polygamy.

�The State of Utah was not allowed to become a state until they recognized marriage as being only between one man and one woman,� said Lungren. �That had to do with whether you could have multiple partners. This is a different aspect of that question, but essentially the legal basis is the same.�

�How is a marriage endangered?�

Gay Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank said, �Mr. Speaker, as I listen, I am struck anew by the ability of preprogrammed rhetoric to resist the facts.�

�In the State of Massachusetts, we have had same-sex marriage for over two years� Frank continued. �None of the negative consequences that people have predicted came true.�

�I think this is motivated, frankly, by a dislike of those of us who are gay and lesbian on the part of those who are the main motivators,� said Frank. �You know, we are told don�t take things personally, but I take this personally. I take it personally when people decide to take political batting practice with my life.�

Frank mocked proponents� arguments that passing the amendment would protect traditional marriage.

�How is a marriage endangered?� asked Frank. �Apparently, men happily married in Indiana, Nebraska, Kansas, and Mississippi read that we have had same-sex marriage quite successfully in Massachusetts, and they look in the mirror and they say, wow, I could have married a guy!�

Opponents, led by Frank and New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler, continued to press proponents to explain how gay marriages have any impact on traditional marriages.

Georgia Republican Phil Gingrey was first in Frank�s line of fire.

�Reasonable people can differ in their views on homosexuality or its causes, consequences, and moral significance,� said Gingrey.

�Personally, I think it is a good thing that American citizens who happen to be gay are accorded more tolerance and respect today than was the case 50 years ago.�

�But,� said Gingrey, �I honestly believe that the issue facing us today is not the issue of homosexuality. Most fundamentally, the issue we face today is marriage, the meaning of marriage as an institution and how best to support it.�

�I favor the Federal Marriage Amendment because I want to support the institution of marriage and keep it strong. This issue is not, in my humble opinion, about homosexuality.�

Frank interrupted, �Would the gentleman explain to me does how the fact that two women in Massachusetts who are allowed to be legally committed to each other in any way endanger or threaten marriages between heterosexuals elsewhere?�

After two more presses by Frank, Gingrey started stuttering and moved on to another speaker without answering the question.

Tammy Baldwin and Jim Kolbe, lesbian Wisconsin Democrat and gay Arizona Republican, also talked about their lives and their families and how the amendment would harm them.

Ohio�s top Democrats didn�t vote

Ohio Democratic Senate candidate Sherrod Brown of Lorain and gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland did not vote.

The two were delayed on a plane between Cincinnati and Washington and arrived at the Capitol four minutes after the vote had closed, according to spokespersons from both campaigns.

Both went to the House floor to put statements in the record.

�I ask unanimous consent that Roll Call 378, which I missed as a result of being detained at the airport, be indicated on the record that I would have voted no,� said Strickland.

�Regarding the federal marriage amendment,� said Brown, �I was detained coming in from the airport, missed the vote by 4 minutes, and would have voted �nay� on the Federal marriage amendment.�

Both Brown and Strickland opposed the amendment in 2004.

Ohio members voting in favor of the amendment were Republicans Boehner, Chabot, Paul Gillmor of Sandusky, Steve LaTourette of Painsville, Bob Ney of St.Clairsville, Oxley, Ralph Regula of Navarre, Jean Schmidt of Cincinnati, Pat Tiberi of Columbus, and Turner.

Ohioans voting against the amendment included Republicans David Hobson of Cincinnati and Deborah Pryce of Columbus. They were joined by Democrats Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Cleveland, Kucinich, Marcy Kaptur of Toledo, and Tim Ryan of Youngstown.

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