- The Washington Times - Friday, July 16, 2004

The federal marriage amendment failed in the Senate, but conservative forces vow that the same-sex “marriage” issue is far from dead this election year and will resurface in races across the country, on several state ballot initiatives, and in a House vote next week.

“We want to see candidates in both parties held accountable,” said Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage and a driving force behind the Federal Marriage Amendment, which was blocked in a Senate procedural vote this week.

Lori Waters, executive director of the Eagle Forum, said the Senate vote and upcoming House votes are “going to be used in the elections … not only against incumbents, but in open-seat races as well.”

House Republican leaders expect their chamber to vote on the marriage amendment in the fall. But even before then, they may have other votes on the issue, starting with a bill set for a vote next week that would limit federal courts’ ability to hear cases challenging the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act clause that says states need not recognize a same-sex “marriage” from another state.

Also, nine states have constitutional amendments on the ballot this fall defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman: Missouri, Louisiana, Michigan, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Oregon. Ballot initiatives are likely in four additional states.

In South Dakota, Republican John Thune already has criticized his opponent, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, for voting against consideration of the marriage amendment this week.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said his group will try to make problems for other senators who voted “no” but come from states that have tried to protect marriage, such as Nevada, Arkansas and North Dakota.

And Ms. Waters noted that in states such as Georgia and Louisiana, where House members from both parties are seeking open Senate seats, the marriage issue could come into sharper focus as these candidates are forced to go on the record in the House in coming weeks and months.

President Bush appears to be “gaining confidence” on the marriage issue, speaking out several times recently in support of the constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, said Bob Knight, director of the Marriage and Family Institute, an affiliate of Concerned Women for America.

“He did so gingerly at first, and now is showing more and more that he understands the gravity of protecting marriage and the political benefits of doing so,” Mr. Knight said.

But amendment opponents said the vote proves that the issue is a political dud.

“The colossal failure [of the marriage amendment] on the Senate floor is a perfect indicator of the failure it will be on the campaign trail,” said Cara Morris, spokeswoman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Ms. Morris said same-sex “marriage” simply is not a high-priority issue for the majority of Americans.

Former Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, a Republican who has been an outspoken opponent of the marriage amendment, agreed that people are more concerned about other issues and marriage isn’t likely to be a major issue this election. He said in Georgia’s Senate race and elsewhere that it won’t “swing votes one way or the other.”

And Chris Barron, political director of the Log Cabin Republicans, a homosexual group that strongly opposed the marriage amendment, warned that if Republicans push the marriage issue too much, they could hurt some of their own candidates running for re-election in moderate Republican districts.

He noted that for Republican House members such as Reps. Christopher Shays, Rob Simmons and Nancy Johnson in Connecticut, Rep. Jim Leach in Iowa, and Rep. Mary Bono in California, “the president’s support for this unnecessary amendment has hit like a thud in their districts.”

“It certainly doesn’t help politically in the district I represent,” Mr. Shays said yesterday, calling the same-sex “marriage” issue a “two-edged sword,” because many of his constituents oppose the marriage amendment and many favor it. Mr. Shays does not favor it.

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