By Laurie Kellman
The Associated Press
Wednesday 07 June 2006
Washington - The Senate on Wednesday rejected a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, dealing an embarrassing defeat to President Bush and Republicans who hoped to use the measure to energize conservative voters on Election Day.
Supporters knew they wouldn't achieve the two-thirds vote needed to approve a constitutional amendment, but they had predicted a gain in votes over the last time the issue came up, in 2004. Instead, they lost one vote for the amendment in a procedural test tally.
Wednesday's 49-48 vote fell 11 short of the 60 required to send the matter for an up-or-down tally. The 2004 vote was 50-48.
Supporters lost two key "yes" votes - one from Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., who has changed his mind since 2004, and another from Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., who did not vote this time because he was traveling with Bush.
Gregg said that in 2004, he believed the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in that state would undermine the prerogatives of other states, like his, to prohibit such unions.
"Fortunately, such legal pandemonium has not ensued," Gregg said in a statement. "The past two years have shown that federalism, not more federal laws, is a viable and preferable approach."
A majority of Americans define marriage as a union of a man and a woman, as the proposed amendment does, according to a poll out this week by ABC News. But an equal majority opposes amending the Constitution on this issue, the poll found.
"Most Americans are not yet convinced that their elected representatives or the judiciary are likely to expand decisively the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a possible presidential candidate in 2008. He told the Senate on Tuesday he does not support the amendment.
The tally Wednesday put the ban 18 votes short of the 67 needed for the Senate to approve a constitutional amendment.
But the defeat is by no means the amendment's last stand, said its supporters.
"I do not believe the sponsors are going to fall back and cry about it," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "I think they are going to keep bringing it up."
The House plans a redux next month, said Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
"This is an issue that is of significant importance to many Americans," Boehner told reporters. "We have significant numbers of our members who want a vote on this, so we are going to have a vote."
The defeat came despite daily appeals for passage from Bush, whose standing is troubled by sagging poll numbers and a dissatisfied conservative base.
The Vatican also added muscle to the argument Tuesday, naming gay marriage as one of the factors threatening the traditional family as never before.
Democrats said the debate was a divisive political ploy.
"The Republican leadership is asking us to spend time writing bigotry into the Constitution," said Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, which legalized gay marriage in 2003. "A vote for it is a vote against civil unions, against domestic partnership, against all other efforts for states to treat gays and lesbians fairly under the law."
In response, Hatch fumed: "Does he really want to suggest that over half of the United States Senate is a crew of bigots?"
Forty-five of the 50 states have acted to define traditional marriage in ways that would ban same-sex marriage - 19 with constitutional amendments and 26 with statutes.
The amendment would prohibit states from recognizing same-sex marriages. To become ratified, it would need two-thirds support in the Senate and House, and then would have to be ratified by at least 38 state legislatures.
Seven Republicans, many from New England, voted to kill the amendment. They were Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Susan Collins of Maine, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, John McCain of Arizona, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and John Sununu of New Hampshire.
Ben Nelson of Nebraska, the only Democratic senator who supports the amendment, voted "yes." The only other Democrat to vote in favor of moving forward with an up-or-down vote Wednesday, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, opposes the amendment itself.
Three senators did not vote: Democrats Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and John Rockefeller of West Virginia, and Republican Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
Go to Original
Federal Marriage Amendment Will Not Address America's Pressing Needs
By Harry Reid
Monday 05 June 2006
Washington - With Bush Republicans turning their attention away from gas prices, health care costs, and the most pressing threats to America's families in favor of an ill- fated Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today delivered the following speech on the Floor of the U.S. Senate. The text of Sen. Reid's speech, as prepared, is below:
In Nevada today, gas prices are over $3.00 a gallon. Fill-ups at the tank cause emptiness at the bank. This Administration, the most friendly-to-oil Presidency in our history, refuses to buck Big Oil or the auto manufacturers. Our citizens are literally choking on the lack of alternative fuel. Few incentives for energy created by the sun, the wind, or the Earth's geothermal reserves has this Administration endorsed.
Raging in Iraq is an intractable war. Our soldiers are fighting valiantly, but we have Abu Ghraib and Haditha - where 24 or more civilians were allegedly killed by our own - and no policy for winning the peace. However, Secretary Rumsfeld continues in his job with the full backing of the President. Not a reprimand, not a suggestion that his Defense Secretary is at fault.
We have a national debt that President Bush won't acknowledge, but our children, their children, and their children's children will have to acknowledge the generations of debt created by President Bush's economic policies. Federal red ink as far as one can see. America is becoming continually more dependent on loans from China, Japan, Saudi Arabia and England.
Our world is changing as we speak as a result of global warming - a condition our President does not acknowledge, let alone attempt to reverse.
Today nearly 46 million Americans have absolutely no health insurance. Millions more of our countrymen have inadequate health insurance. This Administration has come forward with nothing of substance to address this national emergency.
Seniors in Nevada and each of the 50 states are struggling to survive. Some physicians refuse to take Medicare patients. The President's Medicare prescription drug plan has been a gift to HMO's, insurance companies, and drug companies and a nightmare for seniors.
Education for many of our graduating high school seniors has become a goal too far. Student loans and Pell grants are not a priority of the Bush Administration. The ability to obtain a college education is becoming more and more based on how much money your parents have instead of how much academic potential our youth have.
Crime remains a national worry, but money from the federal government to our states for crime fighting and crime prevention is being drastically cut. Successful anti-crime programs such as the COPS program are being eliminated by President Bush, much to the consternation of police officers across America.
A trade policy that is continually eroding America's favorable balance of payments seems to be the watchword of the Bush Administration. This trade policy causes America to be less and less globally competitive.
The scientific community cries for help. They believe dread diseases such as Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's, Parkinson's, and diabetes could be moderated and prevented, but President Bush emphatically says NO to allowing scientists to study and research the healing powers of stem cells. He refuses to keep hope alive for the suffering people of our great country.
In spite of the many serious problems we have just discussed, what is the United States Senate going to debate this week?
A new energy policy? NO.
Will we debate the raging war in Iraq? NO.
Will we address our staggering national debt? NO.
Will we address the seriousness of global warming - NO.
Will we address the aging of America? NO.
Will we address America's education dilemma? NO.
Will we address rising crime statistics? NO.
Will we debate our country's trade imbalance? NO.
Will we debate Stem Cell Research? NO.
But what we will spend most of the week on is a constitutional amendment that will fail by a large margin, a constitutional amendment on Same Sex Marriage - an effort that failed to pick up a simple majority, when we recently voted on it. Remember, an Amendment to our Constitution requires 67 votes.
I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. I believe in our federal system of government, described to me in college as a central whole divided among self governing parts. Those self governing parts - the 50 states - have already decided this on their own in state after state. For example, in Nevada the constitution was amended to prevent same sex marriage. Congress and President Clinton passed a law that gave the states the guarantee that their individual laws regarding marriage would be respected. The Defense of Marriage Act creates an exception to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution so that no state can force its laws of marriage on another.
So why are we being directed by the President and this Republican majority to debate an Amendment to the Constitution, a document inspired more than two centuries ago? Why would we be asked to change this American masterpiece?
Will it next be to constitutionally dictate the cause of divorce, or military service, or even what America's religion must be?
So for me it is clear the reason for this debate is to divide our society, to pit one against another. This is another one of the President's efforts to frighten, to distort, to distract, and to confuse America. It is this Administration's way of avoiding the tough, real problems that American citizens are confronted with each and every day:
High Gas Prices.
The War in Iraq.
The National Debt.
Stem Cell Research.
Each issue begging the President's attention, each issue being ignored - valuable time in the Senate spent on an issue that today is without hope of passing.
These issues are not Democratic issues. These issues are not Republican issues. There must be bipartisan efforts to address America's ills.
I will vote no on the Motion to Proceed, as it is not a measure meant to bring America together. Rather, it is an effort to cover and conceal the issues necessary to make America more competitive, caring, considerate and stronger.
Together, America Can Do Better.