MARRIAGE PROTECTION AMENDMENT--MOTION TO PROCEED--Continued -- (Senate - June 06, 2006)
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Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, before he leaves the floor, I wanted to say to my colleague from Delaware that he painted a very strong case of what we ought to be doing on the Senate floor. Without reading a note, he ticked off a list of six or seven things or eight things that we really need to take care of, and I just wanted to thank him very much.
I rise today to oppose the proposed constitutional amendment on marriage. I oppose it. I think it is divisive. I think it is unnecessary. I want to lay out the reasons.
First of all, the proposed amendment is nothing more than a cynical election year ploy. I truly believe that, and I think if anyone has followed this every-couple-of-year debate, they know it is true. It pops up like clockwork around election time.
Second, the definition of marriage, as has been stated by Senator Carper from Delaware, who was the Governor of that State, has been determined by the States, and indeed the States are acting in many ways to decide whether they want to legalize gay marriage or legalize domestic partnerships or civil unions or outlaw all of these things. So States are making their decisions, and they should be respected.
On a personal note, let me say that I have been married for 44 years to the same person. I have to say as someone married for that length of time, the fact that two gay people decide they want to take care of each other for the rest of their lives and care about each other for the rest of their lives, that doesn't threaten my marriage one bit. It doesn't threaten me. It doesn't make me worry about my marriage. My marriage is too strong for that. The fact is, if someone feels their marriage is threatened because two gay people care about each other, then their problems go way deeper than they are caring to admit.
Throughout our Nation's history, we have only amended the Constitution to extend rights and equality, and that is an important point. So I think we have established in this debate that the States are taking care of this issue, and they are coming out in all different places.
That is the way it ought to be.
So here we are, June 2006, with only a few precious months left on the Senate calendar, and we are facing some very serious issues at a critical time in our history. It is our duty to respond to the American people and their needs. I truly believe that this President and the Republican leadership are ignoring the needs of the American people, and that is why we see the lowest ratings ever--I think ever--for this particular Congress and very low ratings for the President.
For example, what do President Bush and the Republican leadership say to the families of our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who want to know when their loved ones will be coming home? Why aren't we talking about that instead of an issue that is being handled by the States? Maybe they don't answer that question because they don't want to say that the war in Iraq has killed and wounded over 20,000 American soldiers, and there is no end in sight to the war.
That brings up an issue that I care a lot about, which is the state of our military men and women. If you want to talk about their marriages for a minute, why don't we do that? Divorces are up, way up, among families who are deployed to these war zones. Families are suffering. The divorce rate between 2000 and 2004 nearly doubled in the Army, and it did not double in the Army because two people who happen to be of the same sex care about each other and want to take care of each other for the rest of their lives. That is not why military marriages are failing. They are under stress, impossible stress, the hard-to-imagine stress of being deployed again and again and again, going out on a battlefield with antidepressants being handed out to them. That is why they are suffering. That is why we see their marriages breaking up and their children crying themselves to sleep every night. But, oh no, we are not talking about that. We are talking about an issue that is being handled by the States.
I don't understand why this administration will not talk about these issues. Why won't they talk about the fact that we have lost our focus in Afghanistan, despite the fact that a resurgent Taliban has vowed to step up attacks during coming months and we are seeing such a resurgence of the Taliban there. Why aren't we discussing that instead of a cynical and divisive and unnecessary constitutional amendment about something that is being taken care of by the States?
What do President Bush and the Republican leadership say about our security here at home? What they don't want to say is that nearly 5 years after 9/11 they still have not adopted the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Shouldn't we be discussing ways to secure our ports and our rails, and ways to track foreign visitors in the U.S., instead of this cynical, divisive and unnecessary constitutional amendment on a subject that is being handled by the Governors and by the States?
Why do President Bush and the Republican leadership say nothing about gas prices? Why are they doing nothing about gas prices? Maybe it is because they don't want to say that they don't have any solutions--like raising fuel economy standards in a meaningful way or strongly promoting the use of hybrid cars or flex-fuel vehicles so we use less gasoline. This President tomorrow could issue an Executive order that says all the cars that are bought by Federal taxpayers for the Federal fleet have to be the most fuel efficient cars available. They are not doing that. They would rather talk about this amendment, which is about a subject that is being handled by the States.
What does the President and what do the Republicans and the leadership say to the millions of Americans who need access to affordable health care? They don't want to talk about that. They want to talk about this divisive amendment. Maybe it is because they have no clue of what to do, even though health care costs continue to be a tremendous burden on our small businesses and our individuals and our families, and the prescription drug benefit is rife with problems.
Tomorrow we could vote to give Medicare the power and the authority to negotiate for lower drug prices, which would save that program millions, and we would be able to make the program stronger and not put a halt to the benefits, which is called a doughnut hole, just when the sickest patients need more. Oh, no, they would rather talk about an amendment on a divisive subject that is being handled by the States.
Why don't they talk about the fact that our families are struggling to pay for college tuition for their children? They don't want to talk about that because they have failed to help America's families pay for college, despite the fact that tuition is becoming hugely expensive and more expensive each and every year. As a matter of fact, President Bush just signed a tax law that makes college loans more expensive. But, oh no, we can't talk about that. We are going to talk about a divisive amendment on a subject that is being handled by the States.
Why don't they want to talk about our fiscal situation? Why don't they? They don't want to say that as a result of their policies, the policies of this administration and my Republican friends, we now have seen the surpluses that were left to them, to their stewardship, turn into deficits as far as the eye could see. They are projected to hit well over $300 billion, and the public debt stands at an eye-popping $8.4 trillion. When they got the reins of Government there were going to be surpluses as far as the eye can see. Now there are deficits as far as the eye can see.
They don't want to say that it is this administration's failed policies that will leave our children and grandchildren with a bill for the tax cuts to the wealthiest people, tax cuts that we can't afford.
How do they really respond to the concerns and
the anxieties of the American people, anxieties and concerns that we see in poll after poll? This is not Democratic polls or Republican polls, these are everybody's polls. People are worried. They say we are on the wrong track.
But this is what this administration says, and this Congress, they say: Sorry, America, please hold. Please hold, America, while the Senate takes time to consider a constitutional amendment that has nothing to do with the most serious issues you face today. Why? Because they need to score political points. Please hold, America, because, although we have been elected to serve you and unite you, we would rather divide you for our own partisan interests.
If I were a conservative I would be insulted today, insulted by the fact that I am being used as a political pawn by this President and the Republican leadership. I would be insulted.
The issue of marriage has been determined by the States. For those people who worried about it, there was DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. I believed at the time that wasn't even necessary because I believe the States have the right to make decisions about marriage. But it passed and it has been upheld. So what is the problem? There is not a problem.
From the party that says let the States decide, suddenly the States do not know as much as these Senators here. They know everything, and they are going to amend the Constitution on something that the States are handling.
This, in many ways, is a telling moment for this Senate. With all the issues I have laid out and the issues that Senator Carper has laid out, there is no planning for these issues. So this Senate is being used as part of a political campaign. I resent that, when we have men and women dying every single day in Iraq, newspaper reporters being blown up. But we have to talk about a subject that is being handled by the States.
As I said before, we have never amended our Constitution to take away rights. We don't do that in America. We are too strong for that. We are too good for that. We are a model of freedom because of that. But that is precisely what is being proposed here, an amendment that is unnecessary because the States are handling this and all this does is divide us instead of uniting us.
Look at some of the great examples of our constitutional amendments.
The Bill of Rights--the first ten amendments--guarantee important liberties to Americans, from freedom of speech to freedom from unwarranted search and seizure to freedom of religion. And the 10th amendment reserves for the States all powers not specifically given to the Federal Government.
The 13th, 14th and 15th amendments corrected the horrific injustices of slavery by giving African-Americans the right to vote and equal protection under the law.
The 19th amendment gave women the right to vote, and the 26th amendment gave 18-year-olds the right to vote.
This short but impressive list of amendments demonstrates that our Constitution is meant to expand, not restrict, freedom and equality.
I want to say to my colleagues that there is something about this debate that has bothered me. As I have listened to some of my colleagues comment in support of this proposed amendment--which is their total right to support--I have been troubled by the suggestion that gay Americans are responsible for a host of problems in our society, from children born out of wedlock to poverty to divorce. These comments are wrong. These comments are wrong. It is wrong to find scapegoats in our great country. Gays and lesbians, they are God's children too. They wake up every morning, they try to do the best to live their lives, the best for the people they love. And they live their lives one day at a time.
We can solve problems such as unintended pregnancies, poverty, divorce, and adoption without stooping to scapegoat and hurt so many people.
If we want to strengthen families, let's strengthen families. Let's help families with their college tuition. Let's help families with their child care. Let's help them by raising the minimum wage. Let's clean up Superfund sites that are near schools. Let's help the 44 million Americans who need health insurance. Let's help those who are reaching retirement age, who are so frightened because the promise of the golden years is not there.
Let's reach out to each other and do that instead of being forced to deal with manufactured political issues which, again, pop up every election year. That sends false hopes out to some Americans who really want this constitutional amendment. They are being used. It also sends out fear and sadness to so many other Americans.
We can do better. We must do better for all Americans.
I yield the floor.
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