Unprecedented Constitutional Amendment on Federal Marriage Proposed by Anti-Gay Coalition

July 16, 2001 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

(WASHINGTON, DC) – A constitutional amendment proposed by a coalition of organizations that would permanently block any state from recognizing same-sex marriage is an unnecessary overreach of the federal government into state and local decision-making that has little political support among leading Republicans, according to the nation's leading gay Republican organization.

The Federal Marriage Amendment proposed by the Alliance for Marriage coalition states that "marriage in the United States shall consist only of a union of a man and a woman," and would prohibit any state constitutions or laws from requiring "that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups." The group could not name any Members of Congress who had pledged to sponsor the amendment, and indicated that further announcements would follow. The amendment would require passage in both the House and Senate by a 2/3 margin, and ratification by at least 38 state legislatures to be enacted.

"Marriage may be an institution in trouble, but that is largely due to the actions of heterosexual couples, not gay Americans," said Rich Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. "Many gay couples, however, are seeking legal recognition for long-term relationships. There is no need to "protect" marriage from gay Americans, and no need for the federal government to overrule state and local governments on marriage. This is just another gratuitous political swipe at gay Americans."

"This amendment would leave permanent, harmful effects on millions of Americans," Tafel said. "Republicans who oppose this amendment stand in the tradition of the GOP's long-held support for local control, and opposition to big government."

The effort drew criticism from conservative Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), who spoke publicly of his opposition to the amendment.

"I don't think the Constitution was ever written and set up for those kinds of amendments," Hagel told the Omaha World-Herald. "I think those kinds of issues are best left to the states."

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, when asked about the measure, declined to offer any support for it, adding that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed by President Clinton in 1996, is "already on the books," a law which "states, as a matter of federal law, marriage is an institution that exists between a man and a woman."

During the 2000 presidential campaign, President Bush responded to questions about California Proposition 22, which would ban gay marriage in that state, and Vermont's landmark civil unions law, that he did not see a federal role in such issues, and the decisions should be left up to individual states.

During the debates last fall, Vice President Dick Cheney added that sanctioning of relationships should be determined by states. "I don't think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area," Cheney said. "I think we ought to do everything we can to tolerate and accommodate whatever kind of relationships people want to enter into."

"While a small number of Members in Congress may announce their support for this amendment in the future, all indications are that it will not merit much support and is very unlikely to advance," Tafel said. "Proposals like this, which overreach their bounds and fundamentally attack families, are far outside the mainstream of politics today and do not enjoy the support of the American people."