Senate Votes Down FMA, Supporters Show No Sign of Giving Up

( [email protected] ) Jul 14, 2004 05:53 PM EDT

The Federal Marriage Amendment did not pass in a thinly divided Senate today. Although the measure was short 12 votes of the 60 needed to keep it alive, conservatives are vowing to keep pressing the consitutional amendment that protects traditional marriage.

The Senate voted 48-50, in which 45 Republicans joined three Democrats to keep the amendment alive while six Republicans and 44 Democrats voted to table it.

Supporters of the amendment are still hopeful the issue will resurface.

"I don't think it's going away after this vote," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said Tuesday. "I think the issue will remain alive," he added.

"I would argue that the future of our country hangs in the balance because the future of marriage hangs in the balance," said Sen. Rick Santorum, one of the leaders pressing the amendment’s passing. "Isn't that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?"

However, Senate Democratic Minority Leader Tom Daschle said there was no "urgent need" to amend the Constitution since many states have already outlawed same-sex marriages.

"Marriage is a sacred union between men and women. That is what the vast majority of Americans believe. It's what virtually all South Dakotans believe. It's what I believe,” he said.

"In South Dakota, we've never had a single same sex marriage and we won't have any," said Daschle. "It's prohibited by South Dakota law as it is now in 38 other states. There is no confusion. There is no ambiguity."

Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, one of the leading pro-family groups supporting the amendment, said in reponse to today’s Senate vote, "This fight has just begun."

FRC co-sponsored the “Battle for Marriage: The Imminent Vote” simulcast Sunday, in which evangelical leaders urged the Christian community to remain committed to their cause even after the Senate vote.

"We've known from the beginning that this was going to be a long fight,” said Perkins, who charged millions of simulcast viewers to call their Senators before the vote and ask them to pass the FMA.

Despite over 2.5 million of total petitions turned in by The Defense Coalition for Marriage, The Alliance for Marriage, and other pro-family efforts supporting marriage between a man and a woman, some Senators’votes did not reflect the will of the people from their states.

The Defense of Coalition for Marriage from Arkansas turned in over double the petition signatures needed to place the measure on the November ballot but the effort still failed to convince Sen. Blanch Lincoln of Arkansas to vote for the FMA.

“What we didn't know was just how little regard Senators on the left would have for the American people's will on this issue,” said Perkins.

On Tuesday, some Republican Senators discussed omitting the second sentence of the amendment, which was drafted by Sen. Wayne Allard, to gain wider suppport of the Senators who agreed to ban same-sex marriage but felt the issue of civil unions should be left up to states.

Santorum has suggested that leaving the issue of marriage in the hands of states is equivalent in letting the court judges decide.

“The Senate's vote today has left the future of marriage in the hands of unelected judges, at least for the time being,” Perkins said. “This was just round one in the debate over marriage and now that it is over, we begin training for round two.

“Pro-family forces have benefited from the debate over the past few days in two ways: One, every time this issue is forced into the public square, the opposition to same-sex 'marriage' among the American public grows. Second, we now know which Senators are for traditional marriage and which ones are not, and by November, so will voters in every state,” he stated.

Perkins concluded, "One thing is certain: the effort to protect marriage has unprecedented support. Nine states are poised to have state constitutional amendments on their ballots this fall on marriage, and poll after poll shows that between 60 and 70 percent of Americans want marriage to remain one man, one woman. Americans realize that the protection of marriage is vital to the future of the family, the welfare of children and the security of our nation.”

While pro-family groups are defining the fight to protect traditional marriages as between activist judges and the will of the people, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said the choice of allowing same-sex marriages is between “activist judges” and lawmakers.

"Same-sex marriage will be exported to all 50 states. The question is no longer whether the Constitution will be amended. The only question is who will amend it and how will it be amended," Frist said.