MARRIAGE PROTECTION AMENDMENT -- (House of Representatives - September 30, 2004)
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Mr. DeLAY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Chabot), the chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary.
Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me time, and I want to thank the gentlewoman from Colorado (Mrs. Musgrave) for having the courage to bring this forth.
Our Constitution is one of our country's most sacred documents. It is the fulfillment of the promises made in the Declaration of Independence, and it is the backbone of our system of government. It identifies our rights as citizens, the roles and responsibilities of each branch of government, and identifies the limits that prevent government overreaching. It also ensures that our system of government remains a democratic system, whereby the people, through their elected Representatives and officials, make laws. This means a form of government under which laws are passed by the duly elected Representatives of the people, not by judges.
Amending our Constitution is the most democratic process in our Federal system of government, requiring two-thirds of each House of Congress and three-quarters of the State legislatures in order to pass a constitutional amendment. But it has been done and should only be done when principles for governing and for existing in society need to be stated.
The best example of this is the Bill of Rights. The first ten amendments were added to the Constitution to ensure that principles that were so important, that were fundamental for governing and living, were explicitly referenced in the Constitution in advance of any adverse judicial ruling.
We find ourselves in a similar situation today. There should be no disagreement that traditional marriage, as defined throughout our history, is under attack by liberal activists and rogue judges. The only real question at hand is how to protect this important cornerstone of our society.
This issue was first raised with me when I became chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution in the 107th Congress. At that time I clearly stated my preference to consider all possible legislative options before pursuing a constitutional amendment. I also felt that we should wait to learn the results of ongoing litigation. My hope had been that the courts would not attempt to alter our social fabric and, instead, leave the issue where it belongs, before Congress and the State legislatures. Obviously, that has not been the case.
In response to judicial decisions and the attempt by elected officials in several communities to approve same-sex marriages in violation of their own State laws, I called for a series of hearings to consider different options for maintaining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. During those hearings, we heard from many experts that provided us with extensive information on legal and social issues. Perhaps most important to this debate we reviewed the status of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, and the consequences that would result from a judge striking down that important legislation.
DOMA's status is at risk. Judge Robert Bork, for example, one of the witnesses, stated in testimony before the Subcommittee on the Constitution during the hearing on the amendment, "I think DOMA is absolutely a dead letter constitutionally; not because it would be under the original Constitution, but because it is the way this Supreme Court is behaving."
Professor Lawrence Tribe of Harvard Law School has stated, "Same-sex marriage is bound to follow. It is only a question of time."
As a result, our national definition of marriage and the important role that marriage plays in our society more than likely will be changed forever, and it will not be for the better. Once that change is made and forced on every State in our Union, it will be virtually impossible to reverse.
Mr. Speaker, marriage is an institution, not a right. The hearings confirm this. Congress is obligated to support the means that best protect this institution that has been a part of our history. The marriage protection amendment states as follows: "Marriage in the United States shall consist solely of a union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution nor the Constitution of any State shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman." That is what it states.
The first sentence of this amendment ensures that a common definition of marriage, that between a man and a woman, exists for the entire Nation. This will preclude attempts by the judiciary or State legislatures to determine otherwise.
The second sentence will prevent the courts from interpreting the Federal Constitution or State constitution to require a legislative body or an executive agency to enact or recognize marriage and its benefits on a civil union or domestic partnership. The second sentence also ensures that State legislatures are able to define for themselves the status of civil unions and domestic partnerships and the resulting benefits.
One way or another, we know that the Constitution will be amended. The question is, is it done the appropriate way, or is it done by unelected, activist judges?