When you spend twice as much time on vacation as you do working
, you need to set priorities so that your most important work gets done. The U.S. Senate has decided that debating the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA)
is a better use of its limited time than responding to ever-rising energy and healthcare costs or working out viable immigration legislation. The President and the Senate's Republican leadership are clearly using the gay-marriage debate to pander to the party's base and to distract voters from more pressing issues.
The Senate took up this divisive proposed amendment two years ago. The cloture motion to force a direct vote on the FMA garnered only 48 votes, 12 short of the 60 needed. Actually passing the amendment through the Senate would have required 67 votes. The FMA would then have needed to be approved by two-thirds of the House and three-fourths of the states; but let's stick with the Senate:
The FMA needs 19 more yea votes to pass. By my count only 10 seats have turned over since the amendment was debated in 2004. Unless several senators have changed their minds in the past two years, the FMA has no chance of passing. But, just for kicks, let's look at the 10 seats that have changed hands:
- Colorado: Salazar (D) replaced Campbell (R). Campbell opposed the FMA; Salazar likely will as well.
- Florida: Martinez (R) replaced Graham (D). Graham voted against the amendment; Martinez will probably vote for it. 1 additional "yea" vote.
- Georgia: Isakson (R) replaced Miller (D). Miller favored the amendment and so will Isakson.
- Illinois: Obama (D) replaced Fitzgerald (R). Fitzgerald voted "yea," but Obama will almost certainly vote "nay." 1 additional "nay" vote.
- Louisiana: Vitter (R) replaced Breaux (D). Breaux opposed the FMA; Vitter will likely vote for it. 1 additional "yea" vote.
- New Jersey: Menendez (D) replaced Corzine (D). Both are Democrats, and both oppose the FMA.
- North Carolina: Burr (R) replaced Edwards (D). Edwards abstained in 2004; Burr will likely vote for the amendment. 1 additional "yea" vote.
- Oklahoma: Coburn (R) replaced Nickles (R). Both are Republicans, and both favor the FMA.
- South Carolina: DeMint (R) replaced Hollings (D). Hollings voted "nay" in 2004; DeMint will probably vote "yea." 1 additional "yea" vote.
- South Dakota: Thune (R) replaced Daschle (D). Daschle was a "nay"; Thune will be a "yea." 1 additional "yea" vote.
John Kerry, who was busy campaigning in 2004 and didn't vote on the FMA last time around will probably vote against the amendment this time around. Arlen Spector, who voted for the amendment two years ago, today spoke against it.
By my count, 52 senators will vote to force a direct vote on the FMA; 48 will be opposed. Again, the amendment has no chance of passing.
Of course, FMA proponents could argue that a net gain of four votes signifies a trend and that, by bringing the amendment to the floor every two years, they will eventually have enough allies in the Senate to pass the FMA. (Then they'll just have to work on the House and the states.) But the American public's distaste for same-sex marriage is waning.
Repeated Pew Forum polling over the past decade shows opposition to gay marriage steadily declining (65% in 1996; 51% now). In 1996 only 27% of those polled favored same sex marriage; that number is now at 39%. (It is worth noting that a plurality of Americans did not favor interracial marriage until 1991, 24 years after the Supreme Court struck down miscegnation laws in the U.S.) Moreover, 66% of high school seniors in 2001 were OK with same-sex marriage and most polls show that opposition to gay marriage is directly proportional to age
. In other words, younger generations don't have nearly the problem with two-groom and two-bride weddings that older generations have.
So, the FMA will not pass this year (or even come close), and its future is not promising. More and more, Americans are figuring out that same-sex couples pose no threat to anyone's well being and that the debate over gay marriage is nothing more than a distraction. The Senate is wasting its time.