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FEDERAL MARRIAGE AMENDMENT (FMA) TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION

Events, 2004-July to 2005-January:

The Senate rejects the FMA.
The House also rejects the FMA.
President Bush says he will not push for FMA in his 2nd term.

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Sponsored link.

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Quotations:

bullet"The ultimate outcome of our coming national culture war over gay marriage will either be legal gay marriage throughout the United States, or passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment." American Family Association. 1
bullet"Not a single right or privilege will be taken away from a single married person when same-sex marriage becomes a reality across the country. Instead, those gays, lesbians and bisexuals who want to support and strengthen the institution of marriage will be able to marry." Anonymous poster on a gay-positive forum.

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In this essay, and others, "SSM" means "same-sex marriage."

Events prior to 2004-July-14 are discussed in a separate essay.

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bullet2004-JUL-14: Some kind of vote expected on Federal Marriage Amendment: Knight Ridder newspapers carried an article about the FMA on JUL-14. It stated that: "...Republicans are pressing ahead with a vote they fully expect to lose. The reason: It'll keep their conservative base happy and force Democrats to cast what could be a difficult vote for some of them in an election year, political analysts said. 'The timing of this, I think, no doubt is influenced by the Democratic convention' in Boston later this month, said Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute policy research group in Washington. 'They wanted to push this now, get visibility and force Democrats on the record right before they go up to Massachusetts of all places'....Democratic opponents charged that the debate is all about politics. They have hammered Republicans for spending three days on gay marriage while most annual spending bills, including one for homeland security, haven't been passed.... 2

The original plan was to hold a straight-up vote on the FMA on JUL-14. The Washington Post had earlier predicted that it will be defeated, with fewer than 52 senators voting in favor of the amendment. Sixty-seven are required to pass it on to the next step. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) estimated that the revised version, without the second sentence, could draw as many as ten additional votes. However, even with the additional votes, the amendment would still probably fail to get the necessary 67 votes.

The original plan has been scrapped. Instead, the senators will conduct a procedural vote on whether to cut off debate and allow the proposal to be voted upon. Sixty votes would be needed to terminate discussion; it is doubtful whether they will receive that many. If no vote is taken, the matter can be raised in the future. However, with the press of business before the Senate at this time, it may not be reconsidered during the present session. 3,2,4,5
bullet2004-JUL-14: FMA defeated: The Senate voted 48 in favor and 50 opposed to a cloture procedure which would have cut off debate and forced a vote on the FMA. The affirmative vote was 12 short of the 60 required. The FMA is now dead in the water. Debate can be resumed later, but a heavy Senate work load makes this unlikely in the near future.
bulletForty-five Republicans and three Democrats voted in favor of cloture. The Democrats were Zell Miller (GA), Ben Nelson (NE), and Robert C. Byrd, (WV).
bulletForty-three Democrats and six Republicans voted against it. The Republicans were: Susan M. Collins and Olympia Snowe (ME), John E. Sununu (NH), Lincoln Chafee (RI), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (CO), and John McCain (AZ). 

Comments were varied:
bulletSenate minority leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) said there was no "urgent need" to amend the Constitution. "Marriage is a sacred union between men and women. That is what the vast majority of Americans believe. It's what virtually all South Dakotans believe. It's what I believe....In South Dakota, we've never had a single same sex marriage and we won't have any. It's prohibited by South Dakota law as it is now in 38 other states. There is no confusion. There is no ambiguity."
bulletSen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) said: "I would argue that the future of our country hangs in the balance because the future of marriage hangs in the balance. Isn't that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?"
bulletSenator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) said: "The issue is not ripe. It is not needed. It's a waste of our time. We should be dealing with other issues."
bulletBut Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R-TN) Tennessee said that "Same-sex marriage will be exported [from Massachusetts] to all 50 states. The question is no longer whether the Constitution will be amended. The only question is who will amend it and how will it be amended: [either by] activist judges" or lawmakers.
bulletSenate Majority Leader Bill Frist stated "This issue is not going away. Will we bring it back? Absolutely.6
bulletHouse Majority Leader Tom Delay said he expects the House to debate a similar bill in 2004-SEP. 6
bulletTwo religious conservatives compared the FMA, whose purpose is to deny same-sex couples the right to marry, to major American conflicts to grant defend civil rights:
bulletJames Dobson, founder and chairperson of the fundamentalist group Focus on the Family said: "Although we are disappointed by today's outcome, we are not distressed or defeated. This is only the opening salvo in a long battle to preserve the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman — a battle we are determined to win."  He likened the FMA to the Civil War which ended human slavery. He said: "The Civil War, another great struggle in the history of the American people, was not won in a day — and like that great cultural clash, we are certain morality will prevail." 7
bulletMatt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage (AFM), the group which drafted the first draft of the FMA said that it was "a great day....Today's Senate vote marks the start of a democratic debate that AFM hoped to create when we drafted our marriage amendment over three years ago. Our amendment was introduced into both the House and Senate, in order to let the people decide the future of marriage. It will continue to gain ground so long as activists continue to strike down our marriage laws in court." He likened the FMA to the Civil Rights Act. The latter took many passes through Congress before it was taken seriously and finally passed. 7
bulletCheryl Jacques, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual rights group, was pleased at the failure of the FMA. She said: "This was an attempt to divide Americans that backfired and divided Republicans."  7
bulletHow did your senators vote? Find out at: http://www.senate.gov/

bullet2004-JUL-21: Christian History's newsletter comments on FMA: Collin Hansen wrote an article comparing the FMA to the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution: prohibition. He describes this as having been "...the fruit of activist labor, which was often motivated by Christian faith." He wrote: "Some traditional, pro-family groups remain sure that gay marriage is a watershed contest, and they retain powerful allies in the White House and Congress. On the other side, gay-rights supporters have shown a remarkable ability to advance their agenda rapidly. No matter the fate of this particular legislation, they will continue to agitate for society's blessing.....Even if the FMA eventually passes, Christians face an uphill battle to change a culture that demands universal tolerance and promotes feel-good sexuality. You can try to kill a weed by cutting off the visible part. But until you've treated the root, the same problem will emerge later. We'll need to do some digging if we want to cultivate righteousness in America." 8
bullet2004-AUG-19: Marriage Protection Sunday: Religious and social conservatives have declared this Sunday to be Marriage Protection Sunday. The Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Mayday for Marriage, the National Association of Evangelicals, Sky Angel, and the Southern Baptist and Religious Liberties Commission, will broadcast their third nationwide live simulcast starting at 7:00 PM (ET). It will originate from First Baptist Church in Springdale, AR.
bullet2004-AUG-27: House vote: The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) on SEP-30. It is the Marriage Protection Amendment, H.J. Res. 106. The Amendment is dead, because the Senate defeated the measure on 2004-JUL-14. However, it is still being pursued because of its potential effect on the elections in November. Focus on the Family has contacted representatives. As of 2004-SEP-27, they found that:
bulletThe bill has 129 co-sponsors -- an unusually large number. All are expected to vote in favor of the bill.
bulletForty additional representatives are expected to vote in favor.
bulletEighty are undecided.
bullet183 are expected to vote against the bill.

To pass, 288 affirmative votes are required. Assuming that all of the undecided representative vote against the bill, -- an unlikely occurrence -- and that nobody changes their mind, there would only be 249 votes in favor -- 39 votes short of the minimum required to pass the bill.

bullet2004-AUG-30: House rejects the FMA: As expected, the House rejected the FMA. A majority voted in favor of the bill; the final vote was 227 to 186, with the Representatives largely split on party lines. But a simple majority is insufficient to pass a constitutional amendment. The vote fell 49 votes short.

Some comments:
bulletPresident Bush said: "I welcome the important debate underway across America."
bulletHouse Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) said: "This is going to be huge." He promised to reintroduce the bill next year.
bulletHouse Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said: "This is a partisan exercise to distract the American people from the Republicans' record of failure...This amendment is malicious. It is motivated by an animus toward lesbians and gays. It is a sad moment that those clinging to power want to use that to divide the American people for what they perceive to be an electoral advantage." 10
bullet2005-JAN-19: USA: President Bush will not aggressively support FMA: President Bush stated in an interview with the Washington Post that he would not aggressively support a FMA during his second term. He said that senators had told him that the FMA has no chance of passing unless courts first strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Act is currently being challenged in many states. President Bush was attacked by a number of leading Fundamentalist Christian groups for his statement:
bulletTony Perkins of the Family Research Council said: "Clearly there is concern [among conservatives]. I believe there is no more important issue for the president's second term than the preservation of marriage."
bulletTim Minnery, vice president of public policy for Focus on the Family said: "I'm sure [that White House] phone lines are lighting up all over...."The president is willing to spend his political capital on Social Security reform, but the nation is greatly conflicted on that issue. The nation is united on marriage. The president's leadership is desperately needed.....It seems wrong to signal at the start of the new Congress that nothing is likely to happen. We would like him to stoke this first, so when there is this precipitating event, we can hit the ground running."
bulletJanet M. LaRue of Concerned Women for America, said that the president was simply referring to the deeply divided Senate: "I think he was speaking practically about the fact that there are senators who are waiting to see whether the federal Defense of Marriage Act is struck down by a court." LaRue is reported as calling this position  "foolish." She pointed out that: "The responsibility for an amendment lies with Congress, not the White House." 11

The phrases "preservation of marriage" and "united on marriage" are used by religious and social conservatives to refer to excluding same-sex couples from marriage.

bullet2005-JAN-25: Bush addresses African-American leaders: According to Wikipedia:

"...According to the New York Times, Bush told a privately invited group of African-American community and religious leaders that he remained committed to amending the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Over the course of the next two days, it was revealed by the Washington Post and USA Today that the Bush Administration had paid columnists to promote its views on marriage. The Department of Health and Human Services paid Maggie Gallagher $21,500, and Mike McManus $49,000, to write syndicated news columns endorsing the FMA. Additionally, Gallagher also received $20,000 in 2002 and 2003 to write a report on government initiatives to strengthen [opposite sex] marriage. McManus leads a group called Marriage Savers that works with other organizations to promote marriage as defined between a man and a woman."

"Vice President Dick Cheney (whose daughter Mary Cheney is lesbian) has declined to endorse or condemn the FMA, maintaining that constitutional amendments are an issue for the states." 12

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References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Marriage Protection Week: More information," American Family Association, at: http://www.marriageprotectionweek.com/
  2. Jim Puzzanghera, "Gay marriage amendment expected to fall short in Senate," Knight Ridder Newspapers, 2004-JUL-13 at: http://www.kansascity.com/
  3. Alan Cooperman, "Outcry from pews less than anticipated," Washington Post, published by the Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader on 2004-JUN-20 at: http://www.kentucky.com/
  4. Pete Winn, "Flurry of Activity as FMA Vote Nears," Focus on the Family, Citizen Link, 2004-JUL-12.
  5. "Marriage amendment expected to die in Senate. Proposal to ban same-sex marriage unlikely to get enough votes," CNN News, 2004-JUL-14, at: http://edition.cnn.com/
  6. "Senate vote on Federal Marriage Amendment," OneVoice News, 2004-JUL-14, news release.
  7. Pete Winn, "Senate Votes Down FMA," Focus on the Family, 2004-JUL-14, at: http://www.family.org/
  8. Collin Hansen, "The Prohibition of Gay Marriage. We can learn from the defeat of American Christian activism's greatest legislative victory," Christian History & Biography newsletter, 2004-JUL-15, at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/
  9. "Urge House Members to Support The Marriage Protection Amendment," Citizen Link, Focus on the Family, 2004-SEP-27, at: http://www.family.org/
  10. "Anti-gay Marriage Amendment fails in House," Wired News, 2003-SEP-30, at: http://wireservice.wired.com/
  11. Jim VandeHei and Michael A. Fletcher, "Bush Upsets Some Supporters. President Is Urged to Press Ban on Same-Sex Marriage," Washington Post, 2005-JAN-19, Page A11.
  12. "Bush Administration's Stance." Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/

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Copyright © 2004 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004-JUL-11
Latest update: 2006-MAY-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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