Monday, June 19, 2006

Marriage Protection Amendment: Part I

The Marriage Protection Amendment was finally brought to a vote in the Senate. Sort of. The vote was actually just to decide if the Senate was to debate the issue or not. 49 Senators voted yea, 48 voted nay. While a majority of Senators voted to bring the amendment up for debate, they fell short of the 60 votes they needed. So the amendment was shelved for a time. Both of Idaho's senators voted yea. Here is a breakdown of how each senator voted. It was mostly a partisan vote, with all but two Democrats voting nay:

Byrd (D-WV)
Nelson (D-NE)

Most Republicans voted yea, with these exceptions:
Chafee (R-RI)
Collins (R-ME)
Gregg (R-NH)
McCain (R-AZ)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (R-PA)
Sununu (R-NH)

Three Senators didn't vote at all:

Dodd (D-CT)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Hagel (R-NE)

The most notable Republican nay voter was Senator Jon McCain. He is currently the front-runner for the Republican nomination for president in 2008. Some believe his nay vote may have hurt his chances for the nomination. Unfortunately for Idaho, we have little to no say in the matter because the nomination is generally locked up by the time we vote on it. But that's a topic for another day.

In any event, the Marriage Protection Amendment is not going away. It has been heavily lobbied for a few years now by groups like the American Family Association, among others. In fact, it may come up again this year.

Needless to say it is a highly charged issue. Which is why I have a hard time respecting the opinion that the vote on the amendment was solely a political move pandering to the religious right within the Republican Party. This is an amendment that has been gaining momentum for a number of years. It has slowly jumped through the bureaucratic hoops required of all amendments. Meanwhile, individual states have been voting on and passing amendments to state constitutions; 20 of them already. Idaho will be voting on its own amendment this fall. 45 of the 50 states have passed some sort of law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. All of this state activity, along with public opinion polls, would suggest that gay marriage is an issue that the public very much wants the Senate to act on. If the Senate's sole motivation is to "pander" to its constituents, then so be it. That's part of what they were elected to do. It is far better than not listening at all. But whether or not the Senate should have voted on the amendment avoids the real issue:

Should marriage be only between a man and a woman? If so, is it important enough to pass an amendment to the US Constitution?

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