- The Washington Times - Friday, June 18, 2004

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist hopes to pin down Democratic lawmakers by forcing them to vote on a constitutional ban on homosexual “marriage” just weeks before their party’s convention this summer, he said yesterday.

“People will be able to take a stand and won’t be able to sort of waffle back and forth,” said the Tennessee Republican, who acknowledged he doesn’t know whether he has the 67 votes needed to get the amendment through the Senate. “It will force people to think about it.”

The vote will prove particularly tricky for Sen. John Kerry, who is expected to be nominated for president two weeks later at the July 27 Democratic convention in his hometown of Boston.

Asked about the timing of the vote, Mr. Kerry told a Boston Globe reporter yesterday morning, “pretty political.”

Mr. Kerry says he opposes homosexual “marriage,” but also opposes banning it in the Constitution.

If he votes for the amendment, Mr. Kerry could alienate many core Democratic supporters. A vote against it could highlight for all voters Mr. Kerry’s 20-year record of fairly liberal Senate votes.

By announcing the vote this early, Mr. Frist has ensured that Mr. Kerry would have little excuse for missing it.

“I let them know a month in advance so people can start really thinking about it, reading and talking and discussing it,” Mr. Frist told reporters during a breakfast hosted yesterday by the Christian Science Monitor.

Several key Democrats on Capitol Hill opposed to the amendment declined comment yesterday.

Sen. Wayne Allard, Colorado Republican and sponsor of the amendment, said he and other Republicans pushing the measure were not playing political games, but simply responding to the recent spate of court rulings and issuance of marriage licenses in places like Massachusetts, New York and San Francisco aimed at legalizing homosexual “marriage.”

“This is an issue that is being pushed upon us,” he said.

Citing court rulings granting same-sex “marriages,” Mr. Allard said it is the responsibility of the elected legislature, not the unelected judiciary, to determine the meaning of marriage.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican and supporter of the Allard amendment, said Americans were in “shock” and “denial” after seeing the images of homosexuals “marrying” in ceremonies in San Francisco and Massachusetts earlier this year.

“What we stand for here today is the American people having a voice in this decision,” Mr. Cornyn said. “We don’t come here today with the American people having had any voice on this issue so far — only a handful of judges who sought to radically redefine marriage after lo these thousands of years of Western civilization.”

While Mr. Frist is eager to give his colleagues the opportunity to go on the record in favor or against same-sex “marriage,” he said it was those in favor of it who forced the issue in a close and crucial presidential election year.

“It’s an issue I didn’t, sort of, ask for,” he said, “but I feel like we do need to address it because of the activity that’s gone on in recent months.”

Any vote he schedules this year, Mr. Frist said, could be called “political posturing.”

“With the elections coming up, it is getting increasingly challenging in terms of addressing the issues because everything will be looked at through this filter of positioning for the election,” he said, pointing instead to a more practical reason for scheduling the vote.

While the vote “could have possibly been put off until after the election,” he said, “the more and more people that are getting married … the harder it’s going to be to address it.”

Asked about the potential political ramifications of his amendment, Mr. Allard said: “We don’t expect we’ll pick up many gay votes, frankly.”

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