Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Both opponents and supporters of the Federal Marriage Amendment continued their vigorous efforts to persuade as many senators as possible to come to their side as the Senate prepares to vote on the highly charged issue today.

Many on both sides of the debate say the proposal — crafted by Sen. Wayne Allard, Colorado Republican, and pushed by President Bush and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist — won’t advance past the procedural vote scheduled for today.

But supporters yesterday said that would not be the end of the matter.

“This issue is not going away,” said Mr. Frist, Tennessee Republican. “Will we bring it back? Absolutely.”

Outside lobbyist groups were still hard at work running ads, meeting with senators and using grass-roots action to try to secure support for today’s procedural vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment, which defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman and limits the courts’ ability to rule on the issue.

“This is the most intensive lobby effort in our organization’s history,” said Chris Barron, spokesman for the Log Cabin Republicans, a group that opposes the measure and has run print ads touting conservative Republicans who agree with that position. “We will continue to meet with people until the moment of the vote.”

The Family Research Council (FRC) organized a grass-roots campaign, in which citizens are flooding Senate phone lines and e-mail boxes, urging their senators to support the amendment.

FRC has identified a target list of 20 to 25 senators who have been silent, skeptical or otherwise on the fence about the issue.

The apparent success of FRC’s effort yesterday prompted the Human Rights Campaign, which opposes the amendment, to post an alert on its Web site, urging its supporters to ramp up their efforts.

“The far-right extremists are outdoing us 2 to 1 in e-mails and phone calls,” the alert read. “Tell your senators to OPPOSE the Federal Marriage Amendment today.”

Some said the number of the citizens calling Capitol Hill in support of the amendment is simply not enough to pass it.

“It will never be adopted until many more Americans feel as strongly as they do,” said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who argued that a constitutional amendment is premature and that the issue should be left to the states.

He said he will oppose the attempt to bring the marriage amendment to a floor vote, because he expects that to be his only opportunity to express his opposition to the amendment.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and his running mate, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, won’t return to the Senate for today’s procedural vote.

But a Kerry spokesman said both men would return to register their opposition if there were to be a direct vote on the amendment.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, warned that “American people are watching” the vote, and “a no vote or an ‘I didn’t care enough to show up’ vote will be perceived as against traditional marriage.”

One Senate Republican aide said more Republicans likely will back their leaders on the procedural motion than would have voted in favor of Mr. Allard’s amendment, because it is harder to buck party leadership on procedural votes.

The motion won’t get the needed 60 votes, the aide said, “but at least we’ll be able to say we got a majority” of votes.

Mr. Barron put it more bluntly.

Republican leaders “want a vote that makes it appear that as many senators as possible voted with them because they know if they had a vote on the underlying amendment they’d be embarrassed, and embarrassed in a dramatic fashion,” the Log Cabin spokesman said.

The White House made it clear yesterday that Mr. Bush wants a vote on the actual amendment.

“He believes it’s important to protect the sanctity of marriage,” said White House press secretary Scott McClellan. “And the president believes that the constitutional process is the only alternative that we have available.”

Supporters said that day will come, even if it takes several attempts.

Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage, which is the driving force behind the amendment, said that many important changes take time to ripen and that supporters of the marriage amendment would come back “again and again,” likely gaining more votes each time, as more people realize that courts are redefining marriage by decree.

Now however, lobbyists are working overtime as many senators remain skittish about addressing the issue even one day before the vote.

Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, had “no comment” on how he will vote on today’s procedural motion or on Mr. Allard’s proposal.

“I am leaving my options open,” said Sen. George V. Voinovich, Ohio Republican.

Both men are on the FRC’s target list, as well as the Log Cabin Republicans’ target list.

Others being targeted by lobbyists include Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican; Sens. Judd Gregg and John E. Sununu, both New Hampshire Republicans; Sen. Mike DeWine, Ohio Republican; and Sens. Mary L. Landrieu and John B. Breaux, both Louisiana Democrats.

The issue already is being used in campaigns.

In South Dakota, Republican John Thune, who is running against Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, has been running ads saying he supports the marriage amendment. Yesterday, he circulated a letter from the state’s governor, urging Mr. Daschle to support it as well.

Supporters of the amendment say it is only a matter of time before states are forced to accept same-sex “marriage” — especially because Massachusetts has legalized it.

A 1913 Massachusetts law being used to prevent out-of-state same-sex couples from getting “married” in Massachusetts is being challenged by several homosexuals. Both sides presented their case before a Superior Court judge yesterday.

A lawyer for the homosexuals argued that the law violates both the U.S. Constitution and Massachusetts law, while a state attorney said it protects other states’ right to define marriage as they see fit.

Also yesterday, Town Justice Judith Reichler of New Paltz, N.Y., threw out charges against two female Unitarian Universalist ministers for officiating at the “weddings” of 13 homosexual couples, declaring that the state had displayed an anti-homosexual bias.

• Bill Sammon contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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