US Senate Hearing Begins Today on Federal Marriage Amendment

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The US Senate continues debate today on a federal amendment to the Constitution that would defend traditional marriage. The amendment, first introduced in the House of Representatives by Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) in May of 2003, states that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, and that neither the federal nor state constitutions can introduce measures to allow that title to be granted to other partnerships. The hearing in defense of traditional marriage was called by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), chairman of the Judiciary committee, and will be the third hearing requested by Cornyn in under a year.

There is a sense of urgency to the proposed amendment because of the growing number of cities that are allowing same-sex marriages. In a previous hearing Cornyn said that “the only reason we are discussing this today is the work of aggressive lawyers, and a handful of activist judges. Traditional marriage has always been the law in all 50 states. Renegade judges (and some local officials) are attempting to radically redefine [it].”

In addition, at the national level he said that marriage continues to be defined traditionally, as can be seen from the Defense of Marriage Act, a bipartisan measure passed in 1996. President George Bush has inserted himself into the debate, promising that the administration will defend the Defense of Marriage Act, but also called for an amendment to the Constitution at the end of February.

Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO) will testify in the first panel, and is one of five Senators sponsoring the amendment. According to Allard, “this definition is neither new nor radical. It is a concept embraced by a majority of Americans of all religions, races and political affiliations. It is my belief that protecting the tradition and union of marriage is among the important policies the Congress should address.” House Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), also expected to testify, has said, “Giving an option to marry to same sex couples has zero effect on the marriages of opposite sex couples.” Representative John Lewis (D-GA), the final Congressional witness is also scheduled to testify in opposition.

Teresa Collett, a professor at St. Thomas Law School will testify on constitutional law, and in previous testimony said “either the state will continue to regulate marriage out of concern for the well-being of the family or it will view it as a means of individual fulfillment. In the past it has not been necessary to address the nature of marriage because of the societal consensus that marriage was about family formation. Today we confront differing views, and we must choose.”

Katherine Spaht, of the Louisiana State University Law Center and Reverend Richard Richardson of the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston are both expected to testify as proponents of the amendment. Phyllis G. Bossin, chair of the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association, was quoted by the Washington Post as saying that a constitutional amendment protecting marriage was “problematic” and is expected to testify along with Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago Law School against the amendment.

In previous hearings Cornyn said that defense of traditional marriage is not discriminatory. “Millions of Americans who support the traditional institution of marriage should not be slandered as intolerant. The institution of marriage was not created to discriminate or oppress-it was established to protect and nurture children.” Senior Senate staff say that a markup of the amendment could begin within a week of the hearing.

Copyright—Culture of Life Foundation.

2004 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.