- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 30, 2004

The House yesterday failed to muster enough votes to pass a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage — killing the measure for the year — but supporters say they met their goals of putting members on the record and raising public awareness.

“The people will see how their elected representatives stand on marriage,” said Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, Colorado Republican and sponsor of the amendment, which would define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. “This is just the start of what I see to be a long process.”

The measure, which President Bush supports and Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts opposes, fell well short of the two-thirds vote required to approve a constitutional amendment, failing 227-186, with 36 Democrats supporting it and 27 Republicans opposing it.

The Senate considered a similar amendment in July, but fell short of the 60 votes needed to end debate and force a final vote.

Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s legislative office in Washington, said Mr. Bush and Republican leaders “played fast and loose with the Constitution in a cheap election-year ploy, and they lost.”

Meanwhile, supporters said the House vote was a first step.

Mr. Bush said he was “disappointed that the House failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds vote.” But, he said, in order to counter “activist judges … we must remain vigilant in defending traditional marriage.”

“This is only the beginning; this nation will protect marriage,” said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican.

House Democrats said the vote was election-year politics at its worst — coming mere weeks before the election and designed by Republicans to be used against Democrats who oppose it.

“Republicans will try to use it,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. “That’s the whole point of bringing it to the floor. This is not about good government; this is about nasty politics on their part.”

“It is patently political,” said House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.

Mr. DeLay said the issue will “spill over into the election, as well it should,” but insisted that it was the courts’ actions, not politics, that forced the House vote on the marriage issue.

“The question of the future of marriage in America has been forced upon us by activist judges,” he said.

Mr. DeLay said there is nothing to prevent amendment supporters from bringing the measure back up again in the future.

He and other supporters point to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision legalizing same-sex “marriage” in that state and say it is only a matter of time before legalization will be forced on other states. They note that several states are facing court challenges to their traditional marriage laws, and it is time for Congress to reassert its authority on the issue, before it’s too late.

“If we had stood up in the 1970s … you wouldn’t have the courts deciding abortion; so we’ve learned our lesson,” Mr. DeLay said.

Democrats balked at those arguments.

“The only conceivable point of this amendment is to energize the conservative political base,” said Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat.

Democrats accused Republicans of overreacting, because no federal court has overturned the 1996 federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman and mandating that no state can impose same-sex “marriage” on another.

A federal lawsuit challenging that law is pending in Florida, and supporters of the amendment predict that homosexual activists will unleash a barrage of similar lawsuits after the election.

Republicans denied Democratic charges that the amendment was motivated by bias.

“Don’t try to tell me that people who believe in moral absolutes are guilty of moral bigotry,” said Rep. Joe Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican. “We’re here to protect our kids.”

Rep. J.D. Hayworth, Arizona Republican, said, “Once we start treating a child’s need for a mother and father as discrimination, it becomes impossible for the institution of marriage to do its work.”

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