A Republican effort to ban gay marriage nationwide will be
returned to the Senate floor in 2006, RAW STORY has learned.
The Marriage Protection Amendment was originally introduced by Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) in 2003,
and leveraged as a wedge issue by the GOP during the 2004
election cycle as a way of mobilizing its base to vote
against same-sex marriage.
Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO), a co-sponsor of the 2005 joint
resolution, has confirmed that Senate Majority leader Bill Frist (R-
TN) will attempt to bring the controversial legislation to
the floor this year for a full vote.
"Senator Bill Frist has indicated he will try to bring the Marriage
Protection Amendment to a full vote again this year," Allard
spokeswoman Angela de Rocha told RAW STORY. "Senator Allard believes
that a constitutional amendment is the best way to make it crystal
clear that marriage is between a man and a woman."
Senator Frist's office did not return a call seeking
The proposal to amend the Constitution with a definition
for what constitutes marriage became a central GOP platform
issue after the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the state could not "deny the protections, benefits and
obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals
of the same sex who wish to marry."
Although the primary concerns of the gay, lesbian, bisexual
and transgendered (GLBT) community are equal rights and
protection under the law, including visitation, property
and child custody rights, the GOP has successfully framed
the legislation as a religious argument rather than a legal
issue in order to fire up their base and rally them to the
The November 2004 election saw 11 states -- championed by
conservative groups like Focus on the Family -- approve
constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage. The
concept of the nebulous "moral values" voter emerged as the
reason given for the perceived mandate in President George
W. Bush's reelection.
Yet what was seen as a moral victory by conservatives soon
became a political bargaining tool, one that did very
little to affect the stalled status of the once promised
amendment that drove so many voters to cast their ballot.
According to a New York Times article from January 2005,
the Arlington Group, a coalition of various conservative
Christian groups, was concerned that the campaign promise
of a marriage amendment banning same-sex unions was not the
first priority on the President's agenda:
"We couldn't help but notice the contrast between how the
president is approaching the difficult issue of Social
Security privatization where the public is deeply divided
and the marriage issue where public opinion is
overwhelmingly on his side," the letter said.
The public sentiment on same-sex unions differs greatly
from the view of conservative groups pushing to amend the
constitution. A Pew Research poll conducted in August of
last year found that 53 percent of Americans polled
supported civil unions, which would confer upon same-sex
couples the same rights enjoyed by married couples. Thirty-five percent favored gay marriage.
The Republican Party is likewise divided on the issue.
The emphasis on gay marriage and the "moral values" banner
were conspicuously absent from the GOP's 2006 agenda
outlined by President Bush's Deputy Chief of Staff and
Republican National Committee political advisor, Karl Rove,
during his Jan. 20 speech at the winter meeting of the RNC.
In the Senate, John McCain (R-AZ) and John Sununu (R-NH)
have also expressed an unwillingness to support a federal
amendment prohibiting gay marriage.
Nonetheless, Dave Noble, Political Director of the National
Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, said the Taskforce is prepared
for the GOP to make the amendment a campaign issue again
"Congress has a terrible approval rating, and they need
something to avoid talking about the issues that people
want them to talk about," Noble says. "Wouldn't it be great
to have people focus on same-sex marriage instead of the
corruption issues facing Congress?"
Christopher Labonte, Deputy Political Director of the Human
Rights Campaign, America's largest gay lobby, agrees.
"This is always about politics; it's a wedge issue,"
Labonte says. "They know they don't have the votes, but
they use it to avoid talking about what the American people
really want to be talking about—security, healthcare,
After Senate Republicans' cloture motion to force a direct
vote was defeated in July 2004 and House Republicans failed
to secure the 290 votes required for adoption of the
amendment in September of that year, the legislation was
reintroduced in early 2005. In November, the Senate
Subcommittee on the Constitution voted the Marriage
Protection Amendment into the full committee by a vote of
5-4, positioning the legislation for a reemergence in time
for this year's midterms.
As the Marriage Protection Amendment makes its way back
into the public discourse, the HRC intends to "fight it
just like we did last time," according to Labonte, "with a
broad-based coalition and the American people."
Frist rejected the notion that the amendment is politically motivated during a June 2004 vote.
"That's the most common question: 'Why do you bring up the marriage
amendment at this point in time?' And 'These are for political reasons,
coming into the convention.' And the answer is 'Absolutely, no.'"
Frist cited the attempts of "activist judges" to redefine marriage, and the
need "to protect marriage for what it's been in
this country for hundreds of years."
Noble said gay rights groups intend to fight back.
He said a progressive coalition will mobilize to make calls
and write letters, in combination with "a press campaign to
make sure people know that this is nothing more than an
attempt to pull wool over the voters' eyes."
"Democrats will hopefully see, like they did in 2004, that
this is a trick by the GOP to distract from the real
issues," he added.
He expects Sens. Russ Feingold (D-WI), Harry Reid (D-NV),
Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Ted Kennedy (D-MA) will
reiterate their opposition to the legislation.