Monday, November 24, 2003

A leading Senate Democrat yesterday said nationwide same-sex “marriage” is inevitable, and the Republican speaker of the House conceded that congressional action to prevent such unions will be difficult.

“It’s going to be something we have to go through as part of the maturation process of the nation,” said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat.

Mr. Biden told “Fox News Sunday” that homosexuals are entitled to the same rights as other Americans, but that getting there will “be an incredibly difficult thing for America to grapple with.”

“We’re going to go through a process here that is necessary for this nation in terms of how we deal with the rights and the recognition of gay unions. And I don’t think that gets settled by a constitutional amendment. It makes it more divisive,” Mr. Biden said.

Also appearing on Fox, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, said he supports the idea of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but said Congress will not make a move until the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is tested in the courts.

That act, authored by former Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican, was passed in 1996 to prevent homosexual couples from receiving federal benefits. In the event that an individual state allows same-sex “marriage,” the federal law would not require other states to recognize that union.

Mr. Barr said last week the law never was intended to tell states how to legislate on the issue and does not prohibit same-sex “marriage” at the state level.

Already, 37 states have laws against same-sex “marriages” — that they will not be performed in the state, not recognized from out of state, or both.

Only in the event that courts strike down DOMA will Congress consider a constitutional amendment, said Mr. Hastert, who predicted such a measure would pass the House but fail in the Senate. A two-thirds majority in both chambers is required for a constitutional amendment to pass and be sent to the states for ratification by three-fourths of the state legislatures.

“It’s a long, hard process, and it’s difficult to do. It’s not a sure shot,” Mr. Hastert said.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said he opposes same-sex “marriage,” but also opposes a constitutional amendment.

“The Defense of Marriage Act is a federal law. States, of course, have the right to make their own decisions with regard to how they’re going to look at marriage,” Mr. Daschle said.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court last week gave homosexual couples the right to “marry,” sparking calls for Congress to pass a constitutional amendment. President Bush responded by pledging to work with Congress to defend “the sanctity of marriage.”

Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark yesterday told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he hopes the issue does not become a “wedge” in the campaign.

But “there has been a lot of concern about this” in the armed forces, “and I talk to a lot of my Army friends about it,” said Mr. Clark, a retired Army general.

“I think that’s an issue that shouldn’t divide America. I think that’s an issue that should bring America together. We’re a nation that stands for equal treatment under law of every person in America. Period. And that’s what we should be proud of,” Mr. Clark said.

“We should be proud to uphold it. We should uphold it under the American flag, and it should bring us together as a nation,” Mr. Clark said.

Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, said same-sex “marriage” is “a matter of basic rights.”

“My right to get married or not get married, my right to be a whole person in this commonwealth of Massachusetts where I live and pay my taxes and make my own choices about how I am going to live shouldn’t depend on anybody else’s empirical evidence about how it affects people who it isn’t going to affect,” Mr. Frank told ABC’s “This Week.”

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, Colorado Republican, is sponsoring a constitutional amendment in the House. There is currently no companion legislation in the Senate.

Judicial activists, she said on ABC, should not be redefining marriage.

“If we’re going to redefine marriage, let’s let the American people and their elected representatives decide, not activist judges,” Mrs. Musgrave said.

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