Thursday, March 04, 2004

Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA): Outlook Cloudy.

Today's Washington Post has some encouraging tidbits if you share my lack of enthusiasm for the Bush-endorsed FMA. In a story about the politics of gay marriage, Alan Cooperman and Dana Milbank report:
In Washington, the Senate held a contentious hearing on whether to amend the Constitution to restrict marriage to the union of one man and one woman. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who presided over the hearing, argued that defending 'society's bedrock institution' should be 'a bipartisan issue.' But Democrats were having none of it.

'This is a divisive political exercise in an election year, plain and simple,' said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), the ranking minority member of the Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution.

In a sign that the constitutional amendment endorsed by President Bush may be running into trouble on Capitol Hill, the Judiciary Committee's chairman, Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), is preparing to introduce wording that would leave the definition of marriage up to the states.

Congressional aides said that Hatch, while vowing to support the version of the amendment favored by Bush, has drafted language to appeal to conservatives concerned that Bush's version would intrude on states' responsibilities.

Bush last week announced his support for an amendment banning gay marriage, such as the text introduced by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.) and Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo), which would define marriage as the union of man and woman. Hatch's proposal would allow each state legislature to define marriage as it chooses and to decide whether to recognize the standards of marriage allowed in other states.
If Orrin Hatch thinks the current version of the FMA will be a loser in the Senate, the administration would do well to sit up and listen. But don't expect much action on any version of the FMA until after the election. The real question for members of Congress from both major parties is how to tee up the issue so that they have an issue to run on while avoiding a vote that will commit them to a position before November. After the election, who knows? One thing is for sure: the biggest backer of the FMA in Washington (Bush) won't need the issue for his reelection, no matter what the outcome is in the presidential race.
posted by tommayo, 6:03 AM

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