MARRIAGE PROTECTION AMENDMENT
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Ms. BALDWIN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman and rise this morning in strong opposition to the rule before us. I hope later today to return to the floor and address the substance of Federal Marriage Amendment. But now I want to speak to this process, because by bringing up this unnecessary and divisive amendment to write discrimination into the Constitution, the leadership of this House once again illustrates just how out of step Congress is with the rest of America.
With the defeat of the amendment in the Senate a mere 5 weeks ago, this legislation should have never reached the floor of the House. Yet, unsurprisingly, politics is prevailing over common sense, and today we are going to be hearing a lot of hurtful political rhetoric targeting gay and lesbian families, all for the purpose of pandering to a narrow political base.
Mr. Speaker, America faces great challenges, both at home and abroad. We are confronted with record high gas prices, an endless and expensive war in Iraq, skyrocketing health care costs, and a growing international crisis in the Middle East and North Korea. But the Federal Marriage Amendment allowed under this rule, of course, does nothing to address these very pressing challenges.
At a time of such great tests confronting our Nation, America's leaders should be uniting, rather than dividing, our country. But the FMA does exactly the opposite of that, and it certainly puts politics ahead of real progress.
The Federal Marriage Amendment is also unnecessary. Since 2004, States around the country have been addressing the issue of gay marriage through the normal legislative and governmental process. Today, Massachusetts remains the only State that allows gay marriage. But several other States, including Vermont, Connecticut and California, have passed laws granting civil union protections for same-sex couples. Those laws would certainly be threatened if this amendment were to pass.
The proposed FMA limits the ability of States to confer protections such as important rights like hospital visitation rights, health insurance and broader civil union or domestic partnership protections on unmarried couples, and it undermines our federalist tradition of deferring to the States to regulate the institution of marriage.
Mr. Speaker, many Americans are struggling with the issue of same-sex marriage on a personal level today. There is a vibrant debate going on across our Nation, in church basements, in break rooms, in dining rooms. This debate would be completely shutdown and stifled if this amendment were to pass.
Our Constitution, the most cherished document embodying the American Dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, should not be amended to single out and deny the rights of any one group of Americans. This divisive, hateful, and unnecessary amendment is unworthy of our great Constitution that has been the foundation of our great Nation.
I urge my colleagues to reject this rule and to vote against the amendment.
Mr. GINGREY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds.
Mr. Speaker, I want to point out to the gentlewoman from Wisconsin that 45 States currently define marriage as a union of one man and one woman or expressly prohibit same-sex marriages; and those 45 States we are talking about, Mr. Speaker, include 88 percent of the population of this country. We are not just talking about Georgia. The fact is in a constitutional amendment, three-fourths of the States will have to ratify it.
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Ms. BALDWIN. Mr. Speaker, I thank Mr. Nadler for yielding the time.
At the beginning of every session of Congress, I raise my right hand and state the following oath: ``I, Tammy Baldwin, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.''
I have felt deep pride in our country and our democracy and particularly in the Constitution itself every time I have taken that oath. But if we were to pass this amendment, it would put a stain on our founding document.
In our democracy since its founding, a basic premise is that in a government by, for and of the people, the people must have the ability to petition their government for the redress of grievances. Americans who wanted women to have the right to vote petitioned their government. Americans who wanted an end to slavery petitioned their government. Americans who wanted an end to child labor petitioned their government. Americans who wanted to end segregation policies petitioned their government. Americans who wanted to protect our environment petitioned their government.
Our constitutional system, the checks and balances between the three coequal branches of government, was created to ensure protection of minority rights, and throughout history many groups of individuals have sought such protection from their government. Today, Americans who want the protection of marriage laws for their same-sex partnerships are in the process of petitioning their government.
The Constitution is for expanding rights, opportunities and aspirations. I want to see the day when I can protect my family, my life partner of 10 years, through the same laws and with the same obligations, responsibilities and rights as can straight Americans. These are my aspirations, both as an American and as a Member of Congress, to see the Constitution that I have sworn to support and protect illuminating a path to justice and equality for more and more Americans.
The amendment we are debating today would do just the opposite. Why would we amend the U.S. Constitution to say that one group of Americans, gay and lesbian Americans, can no longer petition their government for redress of grievances? A healthy and a vibrant debate on same-sex marriage is occurring throughout this Nation at this very time in break rooms, in dining rooms, in church basements. Don't cut it off. It is what democracy is all about.
One State in our Union allows same-sex marriages, several others have passed civil union protections for same-sex couples, and others still are silent on the issue or have passed laws or State constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage. This is what happens in a democracy when people petition their government for change.
But we also know that this really isn't about the substance. It is about politics. Why else would we be debating and voting on a measure that the Senate has already effectively killed?
You will get your rollcall vote, but shame on you for playing politics with people's families and their lives.
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