Senate Hearing Held on Gay Marriage Amendment

( [email protected] ) Mar 23, 2004 07:13 PM EST

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A first public hearing over a newly proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage was held on Tuesday with over 100 legal scholars and U.S. lawmakers presenting two opposing bills, one defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman and another allowing same-sex couples to marry.

The supporting viewpoint of the bill that would prohibit gay marriage was introduced by Sen. Leo Blais, R-Coventry and Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., including the Diocese of Providence and an opposing viewpoint on the bill was introduced by Rep. Barney Frank, an openly gay Massachusetts Democrat. Phyllis Bossin of the American Bar Association's Family Law Section, and Teresa Stanton Collett, professor at the St. Thomas University School of Law also voiced their opinions on the issue.

The amendment's original language defined marriage in the U.S. only as "the union of a man and a woman,” and that "Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

The new proposal announced by Allard and chief House sponsor Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.) dropped the phrase "nor state or federal law" and altered the following phrase to read, "shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman."

Opponents of the amendment were outraged by the changes but Sen. Allard said, "I view these revisions that were introduced in the Senate yesterday as technical corrections."

"The institution of marriage is being slowly, systematically decimated," said Stephen Cote, a deacon who represented the diocese at the hearing. "Our church teaches that marriage is a faithful lifelong union between one man and one woman ... that must be preserved."

Dick Richardson, an African Methodist Episcopal Church minister and charity administrator from Boston, expressed his stance on the issue saying that it’s not about discrimination; "As an African-American, I know something about discrimination," Richardson told the panel. "The traditional institution of marriage is not about discrimination, and I find it offensive to call it that."