On June 5, the United States Senate expects to open its second debate on the Marriage Protection Amendment. The Senate is acting again in response to a growing national legal campaign by same-sex ”marriage” activists seeking to systemically overturn state marriage laws against the will of the people.
Since Congress last voted on the marriage amendment in 2004, advocates for same-sex “marriage” have stepped up their efforts to persuade the courts to redefine the institution of marriage despite public disapproval. Currently, nine states face lawsuits challenging their marriage laws. State trial courts in Washington, New York, California, and Maryland have followed the Massachusetts high court in finding their state marriage laws unconstitutional—all these cases are on appeal. Washington, New Jersey, and New York supreme courts could decide marriage cases this year.
Why debate the Marriage Protection Amendment again when we likely will fall short on the votes? The only sure way to prevent the redefinition of marriage by the courts is to keep working to send the states a federal constitutional amendment that affirms marriage and prevents judicial activism. It can take multiple tries for significant legislation to pass—the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act took eight years to enact—and this especially applies to amending the Constitution, which requires two-thirds votes in both chambers. But we have truth on our side—marriage is solely the union between a man and a woman. There is nothing more critical to the well-being of our children, our families, and our future than protecting and preserving the institution of marriage.
We also have the American people on our side. Since Congress last voted on the marriage amendment, Americans around the country have shown that they care about this issue and oppose efforts to redefine marriage. In 2004 and 2005, voters in 14 states turned out in large numbers and overwhelmingly passed constitutional amendments protecting marriage. Average ballot support was 71.5 percent—higher across the board than public-opinion polls had predicted. Currently, 19 states have marriage amendments, and voters will decide on seven more state amendments in 2006.
But these state measures may not hold when challenged by an onslaught of state lawsuits. And the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) enacted in 1996 does not prevent state or federal courts from redefining marriage. A federal district judge in Nebraska has already struck down that state’s popularly enacted marriage amendment, and the ruling is on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. Federal district court challenges to DOMA are also pending in California, Washington, and Oklahoma.
It is highly unlikely that a state-by-state “patchwork” of different marriage laws will hold. If the government leaves it to the states to decide, by omission or commission, it guarantees that the nation’s courts will ultimately redefine marriage, regardless of negative public opinion.
That’s why the United States Congress has to act, and the Senate has a real chance to increase the vote this year. The seven freshmen Republican senators elected in 2004 will be voting on the marriage amendment for the first time and likely will bring us closer to the 67 votes needed for passage. At least two Senate Democrats—Senators Ben Nelson (Nebraska) and Robert Byrd (West Virginia)—are also expected to support the amendment.
Marriage should not be a partisan issue. More pro-family senators on both sides of the aisle should listen to the American people and work together to protect the people’s right to preserve the institution.