The country is not happy with how the Republican Party is governing. A big election looms. Time for politicians lacking a clue about what to do in Iraq or the economy to trot out an old standby: banning same-sex marriage. Word is that the Senate Judiciary Committee is doing a mark-up of the Federal Marriage Amendment today (Update: It passed). (It's not like the Judiciary Committee has any pressing oversight business or anything, say, regarding the domestic spying by theNational Security Agency.) And Bill Frist reportedly plans to introduce the bill to amend the Constitution in early June.
Fortunately, civil rights groups are on the case. Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights has issued a statement opposing Frist and friends, saying, "This is a civil and human rights issue of the first magnitude, and the Constitution can not be used as a tool of exclusion."
And Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese today criticized the Republicans' skewed priorities:
With gas prices hitting $3 a gallon, millions living without health care, a broken immigration system and an endless war in Iraq, Congress should be helping make America stronger, not weaker by trying to put discrimination in the United States Constitution. Tampering with the Constitution in order to pander to a political base is wrong, and all fair-minded Americans should call their members of Congress to speak out against the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Outside of the fact that the amendment writes discrimination into the Constitution, opponents say that its vague language could "potentially restrict other rights and benefits of same-sex couples, such as hospital visitations, inheritance rights and health care benefits."
It's possible the FMA won't be quite as effective for rallying Republicans' socially conservative base as it has in the past. Slowly but surely, Americans are becoming more tolerant and accepting of gay and lesbian relationships. Writing recently for TomPaine.com, Freedom to Marry's Evan Wolfson reported on polls that show a declining percentage of Americans oppose marriage equality for gays and lesbians:
Opposition to ending discrimination in marriage has fallen significantly among most demographic groups, with “substantial declines even among Republicans.” Groups who have long opposed equal marriage, including seniors, Catholics and non-evangelical Protestants are showing that they, too, can be softened and swayed by the mainstream's flow toward acceptance and inclusion.
The cynical strategists in the Republican Party who cater to the most bigoted elements of its base may soon face the fact they've arrived in the 21st century and gay-baiting just doesn't play like it used to. One can hope.
UPDATE: Congressional Quarterly reports that the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the FMA on a party-line vote, clearing the path for the full Senate to debate it. CQ also notes that the FMA has "no chance of passing the Senate this year."
| Thursday, May 18, 2006 9:10 AM