Just out. (Portland, OR) 1983-2013, September 05, 2003, Page 19, Image 19

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    September
5. 2003 * J
news
he odds of a passing the anti-gay
Federal Marriage Amendment got
a little longer last month.
The key element was word from
U.S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner
Jr., R-Wis., that he opposes such an amendment,
at least for now. The story appeared Aug. 25 in
the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
This fairly obscure congressman is important
because he chairs the House Judiciary Com ­
mittee, which has jurisdiction over proposed
amendments to the Constitution.
The conservative Sensenbrenner is not
exactly a champion of gay rights. In the article
he made clear that he opposes marriages and
civil unions for same-sex couples. He supported
the 19% Defense of Marriage Act, which
defines marriage as between a man and a woman
for federal purposes, and believes that legislation
is sufficient.
Amending the Constitution “is very strong
medicine,” he said. “It’s been done only 27 times
in over 200 years."
Ten of those were the Bill of Rights, adopted
in 1791, which many states demanded as a con­
dition for ratifying the Constitution. Two
amendments, those dealing with prohibition
and the sale of alcohol, canceled each other out.
Several others were of a technical nature,
changing the line of presidential succession and
the date of inauguration.
Tammy Baldwin, the only lesbian member of
Congress, also represents a Wisconsin district
and sits on the Judiciary Committee. The
Democrat called Sensenhrenner’s statement
“very significant.”
Both she and former Wisconsin Republican
congressman Steve Gunderson are in long­
term relationships. Their example and quiet
N ew H omophobe
on the B lock
R unaway
B ride
Federal Marriage Amendment
prospects dim by Bob Roehr
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lobbying may also have affected Sensen-
brenner’s decision.
The chairman’s opposition makes it
unlikely that hearings will he scheduled
on the Federal Marriage Amendment. U .S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-WLs., opposes
That makes it much more difficult for a constitutional amendment hanning same-sex marriage
House Republican leaders to bring the
measure up for a vote on the flixir, even if only
Senate Republican Policy Com m ittee, which
as a marker tor interest groups to use on their
he chairs.
rat ing scorecards.
Another member is U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham,
Reinforcing the case against the amendment
R-S.C., who signed on as a co-sponsor of the
was an Aug. 21 column in The Washington Post amendment in 1999, when he was a member of the
by former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., the author
House. However, it is unclear whether that was
of IX9MA. He argued: “Marriage is a quintes-
from deep conviction or for political expediency in
sential state issue. The Defense of Marriage Act
his upcoming race for the Senate. The then 46-
goes as far as is necessary in codifying the feder­ year-old and never-been-married candidate was
al legal status and parameters of marriage. A
gay-baited by his Democratic opponent during the
constitutional amendment is Kith unnecessary
2002 campaign to succeed Strom Thurmond.
and needlessly intrusive and punitive...the
The Democratic side of the subcommittee
Constitution is no place for forcing social poli­ includes Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, Ted
cies on states.”
Kennedy of Massachusetts, Charles Schumer of
U .S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has
New York and Richard Durbin of Illinois, all of
announced that he will hold a hearing on the
whom are strong supporters of the sexual
Federal Marriage Amendment, likely in Sep ­ minorities community. So insiders predict the
tember, though no date has yet been set. That
hearing should he fair. jH
subcommittee includes conservative Jon Kyi,
R-Ariz., whose support of the amendment
Bolt R oehr is a free-lance reporter hased in
was made clear in a policy paper from the
Washington, D.C.
nti-gay rhetoric got a new mouthpiece
when Tony Perkins was named as presi­
dent of the Family Research
Council. He took over
Sept. 1.
FRC is the Washington,
D.C., political arm of James
Dobson's Focus on the Fam­
ily. Its most recent president,
Ken Connor, resigned in
July for personal reasons,
Tony Perkins
though speculation is that
he was not sufficiently anti-gay for Dobson.
Perkins has no such problem. The Louisiana
legislator successfully led the fight against
repeal of the state sodomy law in 2001. “This
legislation has nothing to do with what married
couples do in their bedrooms. It has everything
to do with legitimizing homosexuality," he said.
He is perhaps best known for pushing pas­
sage of the 1997 “Covenant Marriages Laws," a
kind of optional super-marriage that requires
premarital counseling and sets up tougher stan­
dards for divorce. He also championed legisla­
tion that tightly regulates abortion clinics and
requires public schools to install filtering soft­
ware to prevent students from accessing
pornography and other materials deemed objec­
tionable.
Perkins said going to FRC “will allow me to
address the issues I’m most passionate about.”
Among the most immediate will be “defending
the sanctity of marriage and keeping it to one
man and one woman.”
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