The Senate resumed debate over a Federal Marriage Amendment on Monday, staying on the course for the scheduled vote by Wednesday. During Monday’s debate, 9 senators spoke in favor of the Amendment while only one spoke against it.
The amendment, which adds language to the Constitution, “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman,” will be the only law that courts cannot overturn.
Republican senator Wayne Allard of Colorado began the debate by speaking in favor of the amendment.
In his defense, Allard emphasized that the Amendment would prohibit same-sex “marriage” while leaving other issues up to the state.
"We recognize that there is a definite role for the states," he said. "... We allow states to move ahead through the Democratic process and to deal with issues such as civil unions and domestic partnerships...."
Meanwhile, Allard encouraged democrats to debate on the issue as well.
"I hope that we can now settle down and get a good debate from the other side about why they don't think that marriage ought to be defined as the union of a man and a woman, or why don't think this is a good amendment," he said. "... I urge my colleagues from the other side to step forward and let's hear your views."
The second to speak was Republican senator Rick Santorum, who also spoke in favor of the amendment. Santorum argued that “diluting marriage” by allowing homosexuals to marry would not help marriage. Instead, he said he supports tougher divorce laws for the heterosexual family.
"I would make the claim that further diluting ... marriage is not the answer, because we know of the dire consequences that breakdown in marriage results in with respect to children," he said.
Santorum spoke of the oft-mentioned cases in Scandinavian countries, where homosexual “Marriage” was legalized a decade ago.
"[In those countries] marriage is not important," he said. "It has no meaning. And so people simply don't get married."
Santorum said he would support a solution short of a constitutional amendment, if it would be possible, but an amendment would be the only solution.
Santorum joked that "to create new rights under the Constitution, you have to have two-thirds of the Senate, two-thirds of the House and three-quarters of the state legislatures" or simply the support of "four judges in Massachusetts."
"I never saw that four judges in Massachusetts clause, but that's what [is going] on," he said.
The next senator to speak was Dianne Feinstein of California – the only democrat to speak and the only speaker to stand against the amendment.
Feinstein said the debate was “a waste of time” since the amendment does not have the votes to pass; many political observers have said it would be highly probable for the Amendment not to pass since only half the senate currently support it. Feinstein also said the amendment is politically driven.
"Family law has always [been] relegated to the states," she said. "This essentially would be the first departure from that."
She also said states can pass the Defense of Marriage Acts (DOMA) within their own borders, and citizens can work state by state to protect those laws.
"Interference from Washington in this political process, I believe, is premature, unnecessary and not in the context of a Constitution of the United States," she said.
She also charged those in favor of the amendment of placing a “wedge issue” during an election year.
The next senator to speak was Orrin Hatch, a republican from Utah. In response to Feinstein, Hatch said he agreed with leaving the issue up to the states.
"Frankly, I agree that the states should be able to decide these issues,” said Hatch.
But the courts have been preventing the issue from being handled in the states.
He noted that Americans oppose such “Marriages” by a margin of 2 to 1, and that 1.5 million signatures in support of a federal amendment was submitted to the Senate by pro-family groups. In addition, he said the amendment would speak on behalf of these people as well as empower the states, since the amendment needs the ratification of three-fourths of the states.
"If we pass a constitutional amendment, it will be up the states whether or not that constitutional amendment will be ratified or not," he said.
Next to speak was Republican senator Jim Bunning from Kentucky, who called the amendment the “most important” issue the senate has debated since he had been a member.
"Our nation faces a potential disaster, and I hope my colleagues in the Senate realize that we have a responsibility to affirm the ideal of marriage and protect one of the most basic building blocks of our society -- the family," he said.
He reiterated the concerns of pro-family groups, who have mentioned that courts would easily overturn the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act as being unconstitutional, lest there be no constitutional amendment to protect the definition.
"Those of us who defend traditional marriage were not looking for this struggle, but it has been forced upon us, and I feel we must do what we can to prevail,” said Bunning.
Bunning also mentioned the fact that "only a man and a woman have the ability to create children,” and that procreation is a main part of marriage.
"It's the law of nature,” said Bunning. “And no matter how much some might not like it or want to change it or push for technology to replace it, this law is irrefutable."
Following in the line reasoning on behalf of children, yet another republican senator, John Kyl from Arizona, said traditional marriage is the best environment for raising the youth.
"If we want our nation's children to do well, we need to do what we can to ensure that they grow up with mothers and fathers, so we need to protect the place where mothers and fathers properly unite -- marriage," Kyl said.
Kyl also noted that several lawsuits have already been filed to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.
"As these lawsuits progress, it will be the courts, not the people, who make the decisions on whether same-sex marriage will spread throughout the entire nation," he said.
Republican senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama spoke up next in favor of the amendment. Sessions defended the amendment from the earlier charge that it was “politically driven.”
"Senators didn't start this debate. … it was the courts who did so,” said Sessions. "The Supreme Court of the United States, in my view, is seriously drifting from its principles," Sessions said
Next in line was John Cornyn, a republican senator from Texas. Cornyn said the national debate over the definition was good and not spiteful.
"Those of us on the side of traditional marriage must not flinch and we should not back down and we should not allow people to paint our motivations as hateful or hurtful, because, indeed, they are not," he said.
"The institution of marriage is just too important to leave to lawyers and lawsuits and to chance," he said. "… We can be confident in the fact that a constitutional amendment is the most representative process we have in American law,” said Cornyn.
Republican senator Trent Lott from Mississippi also spoke on behalf of traditional marriage, saying such a definition does deserve a say on the Constitution.
"I bet you that if you ask American people, 'List 10 things that you think the Constitution should perhaps be amendment for,' that would not be one of the top 10,” said Lott, who mentioned that the last amendment was in reference to congressional pay.
The last speaker was republican senator Sam Brownback from Kansas. Brownback clarified that the debate over the definition of marriage is not one of “civil rights”.
"This is a critical battle, and we are at a critical stage in the culture of the United States," he said. "And what happens on this particular issue will have a profound impact on the future of the United States of America."
He added that the DOMA will most likely be overturned in federal court, and should this happen, same sex “Marriages” in Massachusetts will be forcefully recognized across the States.
"If the movement for civil unions and same-sex marriage succeeds, we may well be dealing a fatal blow to an already vulnerable institution," Brownback said. "It is possible to lose the institution of marriage in America, and that is precisely the hidden agenda of many in this cultural battle."
Two thirds of the 100 senators must vote in favor of the Amendment in order for it to be ratified. In addition, two thirds of the House must pass the amendment and three fourths of the states must ratify a similar amendment in their own constitution for the federal constitution to be amended.
Pro-family and evangelical Christian groups have largely encouraged its congregants and supporters to call their senators to let them know the Christian voice.
On Sunday, July 11, leading pro-family groups such as Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council jointly held a rally to protect marriage, entitled, “Battle for Marriage.” During the broadcast, which was viewed by hundreds of thousands of evangelicals across the nation, the pro-family leaders listed the names and contact information of the senators who were undecided on the Marriage issue, and encouraged the viewers to change the senator’s view on the issue or “view from their office window”.
Other groups who are adamantly in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment include the National Association of Evangelicals, the Assemblies of God and the Southern Baptist Convention. In total, these groups represent some 67 million evangelical Christians in America.