REPORT FROM CONGRESS
By Congressman Roger F. Wicker
WICKER SUPPORTS EFFORTS TO PROTECT TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE
The House of Representatives took an important step toward preserving the traditional definition of marriage with passage of the Marriage Protection Act just prior to the August recess. This legislation is one of several measures pending before Congress that are designed to protect the family unit as the fundamental foundation of our society.
This issue continues to be a matter of great concern to Mississippians. I was one of the speakers at a July rally in Tupelo in support of traditional marriage, an event that drew over 6,000 people. I have received more than 4,000 letters of support for these initiatives, and questions about this subject have been raised at virtually every stop during my travels throughout the First District over the past month.
I share the concerns expressed by many constituents who think it is wrong for a few appointed activist judges to redefine one of our most sacred institutions and undercut the importance of the family structure in American society. Our fears were heightened earlier this year when the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that its state constitution allows for same-sex marriages.
ISSUE FIRST ADDRESSED IN 1996
Congress addressed this issue in 1996 with passage of the Defense of Marriage Act. I strongly supported this law, which defines marriage for federal purposes as a union between one man and one woman. The law also allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages sanctioned in other states. The Marriage Protection Act is designed to counter a growing concern that portions of the 1996 law might be challenged successfully in court. The new legislation would not allow federal courts, including the Supreme Court, to rule on the provision allowing states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. The Senate has not taken up this measure yet.
Another bill receiving attention on Capitol Hill is an amendment to the Constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The measure came before the U.S. Senate in the days before the August recess, but a procedural vote prevented it from receiving full consideration. The House is expected to consider the amendment when Congress reconvenes in September. While I am generally reluctant to amend our Constitution, I have signed on as a co-sponsor of this legislation because of the far-reaching importance of this issue.
Enacting a constitutional amendment is difficult. Only 21 amendments have been approved in the history of our country. A two-thirds majority is required in the House and Senate to pass the measure to send it to the states for ratification. It must then be approved by three-fourths of the states. I believe the states would ratify the federal marriage amendment, but winning super majorities in both Houses of Congress is a big challenge.
I am also co-sponsoring a third measure that has a similar goal but does not require two-thirds approval in Congress or ratification by the states. The National Marriage Act would again define marriage as the union between one man and one woman for both federal and state purposes and would limit jurisdiction so that only the U. S. Supreme Court could hear challenges to the law.