Yesterday, in a huge win for progressives, a divisive and radical attempt by right-wing conservatives to write intolerance into the U.S. Constitution failed on a vote of 50-48. When the votes were counted, six Republicans joined 42 Democrats in repudiating this cynical and mean-spirited effort to distract attention from the administration’s failures to address the nation’s real problems. Failing to win even a simple majority, the Senate leadership fell 12 votes short of the number needed to bring the Federal Marriage Amendment to the floor, and 19 votes short of the two-thirds majority required to approve it.
- The amendment showed contempt for gay and lesbian Americans and disrespect for the Constitution. The Constitution has been amended to eliminate slavery, to give women the right to vote, and to secure for every person the equal protection of the laws. It has never been amended to mandate discrimination, nor should it be. The states should be permitted to decide whether to recognize civil marriage for their gay and lesbian citizens. A constitutional amendment that would force these citizens to pay higher taxes, deny them family leave, survivor benefits and hospital visitation rights, and leave their children without legal and financial protections does nothing to honor the institution of marriage or our constitutional traditions.
- The amendment was a transparent ploy to rally the administration’s far-right base in an election-year. The Constitution should not be used as fodder for presidential campaign tactics. The administration brought the amendment to a vote in order to satisfy the extreme demands of conservative groups that will stop at nothing to enshrine discrimination in our nation’s laws. The many hours that the Senate expended in debating this amendment would have been far better spent considering solutions to the nation’s health care crisis, the loss of good jobs and retirement security, and a host of other vital issues that Congress and the administration have failed to address.
- Congress must get back to the business of improving people’s lives. The Senate has sent a clear message to President Bush and his allies in Congress that bigotry is no substitute for accomplishment. It’s time for the government to address the real issues facing the American people.
Click here to read our earlier statement on President Bush’s constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.