- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 8, 2004

Days before an expected vote on a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, many senators this week were undecided, skeptical or simply reluctant to discuss the issue.

“I’ll have a statement here in a day or two,” Sen. Mike DeWine, Ohio Republican, said Tuesday.

“Still working on that,” Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat, said yesterday.

“We’re gonna be talking about that this week. Thank you,” Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, said before walking away on Tuesday.

Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisi-ana Democrat, discussed the topic at length, but without saying how he planned to vote.

Family groups and Senate supporters of the amendment hope to sway some of those minds by holding a press event this morning in which 1.4 million petitions supporting a traditional definition of marriage will be delivered to Capitol Hill.

Republicans might try to bring the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Senate floor this afternoon. To pass, the proposal needs 67 votes, which both sides say is unlikely, but supporters want senators to take sides on the issue.

Republican leaders expect Democrats will try to block the measure from reaching the Senate floor, so they are working to muster 60 votes for a procedural motion to force a debate and a final vote.

Democrats say they are still forming their strategy and haven’t declared whether they will try to block the bill. That could mean that they simply don’t have enough Democrats willing to block it, a Senate Republican aide said.

A second Republican aide said Democrats are “scared of alienating their base” of liberal activists if they support the amendment, but risk upsetting some of their rural, more middle-America constituents if they oppose it.

The issue is difficult for some Republicans as well.

Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, said he would support the motion to allow debate, but when asked how he would vote on the amendment, he said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Sen. George V. Voinovich, Ohio Republican, issued a statement saying he supports traditional marriage and favors a Senate debate on the amendment, but is “concerned that a premature vote on passing it — before any court has ruled on the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act or state actions — would likely fail in the Senate and would make it harder to pass an amendment if one were eventually needed.”

“They don’t want to vote on it,” said Mike Schwartz, vice president for government relations at Concerned Women for America. Mr. Schwartz said Democrats and some Republicans are probably hoping that the procedural motion fails so they won’t have to vote directly on the amendment.

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