- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday approved a constitutional amendment against homosexual “marriage” in a brief but nasty meeting.

“If you want to leave, good riddance,” Chairman Arlen Specter told Sen. Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat who refused to participate because, he said, the meeting was not sufficiently open to the public.

“I’ve enjoyed your lecture, too. See ya,” Mr. Feingold told the Pennsylvania Republican before storming out of the cramped and ornate President’s Room just off the Senate floor.

The committee approved the measure on a party-line vote. Mr. Specter said he opposes the amendment but supports sending it out of committee to the Senate floor, where it is expected to be taken up next month.

Majority Leader Bill Frist, the Tennessee Republican who is viewed as a 2008 presidential contender, said he will take up the matter the week of June 5.

Even backers of the amendment say it’s not likely to go far this year beyond becoming a hot-button political issue in the November elections. Because the measure seeks to change the Constitution, it must pass both houses of Congress by a two-thirds majority and then be approved by at least 38 states.

But the sponsor of the amendment says it’s about more than just election-year politics.

“If we quit bringing it up here and talking about it here, in effect we leave the decision-making process to the judicial side,” amendment sponsor Sen. Wayne Allard, Colorado Republican, told reporters after the committee vote.

“Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman,” reads the measure. “Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.”

Vermont Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the committee’s top Democrat, said the marriage amendment was a waste of time for a committee that needs to tackle a wide range of other pressing issues — from judicial nominations to oversight of the National Security Agency’s domestic-spying program.

“I didn’t realize marriages were so threatened. Nor did my wife of 44 years,” Mr. Leahy said.

Mr. Leahy said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, who is Mormon, has expressed support for polygamists in his home state of Utah.

“I never said that,” Mr. Hatch replied. “I know some [polygamists] that are very sincere. … Don’t accuse me of wanting to have polygamy.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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