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Public Statements

Marriage Protection Amendment--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, when I first ran for office to represent my folks out in Utah, I announced my candidacy because of my deep love for my country and my State. My appreciation for both has only deepened over the years. Perhaps the most remarkable characteristic of this country--one that, in my opinion, is distinctly American--is our tolerance, our willingness to accommodate the very beliefs of our fellow citizens. After all, our country's motto is E Pluribus Unum--out of many, one.

But we accept these differences because we share so much else. We sometimes forget it around here, but we agree more than we disagree, or at least that is what I hope for. We all believe in the dignity of the human person. We all believe that men and women were endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and the Government exists to secure those rights. For us, and for our constituents, this is common sense. The same is not true in many other countries, where these basic ideas are debated by all and rejected by some.

We should remember this heritage of respect when we debate the marriage protection amendment. There are strong feelings on both sides of this issue.

I support this amendment. Marriage and family life are the bedrock of American society--the schoolhouse of American citizenship--and judges should not be altering this fundamental institution.

I understand that some of my colleagues believe we should be debating something that they see as of greater consequence. But for many in this body, and for millions of people throughout the country, including in Utah, no issue is more important. During this debate, we should treat each other fairly, with respect, and with an openness to the good-faith arguments on both sides of this amendment.

There is precedent for this. A few weeks ago, the Senate passed an immigration bill. I voted against it, but I agreed with the sentiments of my colleagues who concluded, after the die was cast, that the Senate had behaved admirably. Tensions ran high, but we had a respectful and serious debate about the issues. We voted amendments up and down. I am not saying I saw any Websters, Clays, or Calhouns on the floor, but our respect for one another's opinions and well-intentioned debate certainly did them proud. This is not to say that I was happy with the final product. Even as a purported compromise, it left so much to be desired that I was compelled to vote against it. Yet, I was encouraged by the process and the respect that we showed for the deeply held opinions of fellow Senators.

Unfortunately, the debate over the marriage amendment seems to be unfolding quite differently. You would not know it from the arguments of the opponents, and you would not know it from the lack of treatment it has received in some news outlets; but this is an important issue to Americans. This might not be a major issue for those who live inside the beltway, but for my neighbors in Salt Lake City, my constituents throughout Utah, and good, decent Americans across the country, this is a critical issue.

This debate is not some sideshow for a small sliver of activist groups. Majorities of Americans across the Nation support the protection of traditional marriage laws. This support is not limited to red or blue American. States in every region of the country have worked in recent years to reaffirm the traditional definition of marriage. Forty-five States have either a State constitutional amendment or a statute that preserves traditional marriage laws. Nineteen States have codified the definition of marriage in their State constitutions. In 2004, 13 States, including Utah, overwhelmingly passed their own constitutional amendments to preserve traditional marriage. I was proud to join the majority of my fellow citizens in supporting the adoption of Utah's measure to protect traditional marriage. Seven more States will vote on their amendments this year.

Yet, for those opposed to this amendment, these constituent concerns are not worth our time. I disagree. Yesterday the distinguished Democratic leader came to the floor--a dear friend of mine--with a laundry list of issues that we could be addressing instead of this amendment. Along with the Democratic whip, he did so again today. Ultimately, I think we are capable of chewing gum and walking at the same time. In 2 days, we will be taking up floor time to debate a bill to create a race-based government for the State of Hawaii. I will not hold my breath waiting for these same folks to argue then that we should be discussing more pressing issues.

I wish those dismissing the importance of this issue would let us look at their phone logs. I know that in my office our phones have been ringing off the hook. Utah is a pretty conservative State, but I don't doubt that other members from across the country are hearing the same thing. The constituents who support this amendment, and others like it in the States, understand something that the sophisticated proponents of same-sex marriage do not--our marriage laws permeate our entire culture and we need to be wary about letting the judiciary foist some untested and, frankly, unwanted social experiment on an entire Nation.

Unless we allow an the American people to decide this issue themselves through the amendment process, it is only a matter of time before some renegade judges take it upon themselves to decide it for the American people.

Yet, some in this body apparently prefer to put their heads in the sand.

They know that this is an important issue. But they are tied in knots. A few weeks ago, Howard Dean, the Chairman of Democratic National Committee was for traditional marriage before he was against it. One day the Democratic Party was for traditional marriage. The next day, efforts to protect traditional marriage were tantamount to discrimination.

The bottom line is that some liberal interest groups are attempting a redefinition of marriage, and they are out there all alone on this issue. Vast majorities of Americans support traditional marriage. But some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are so dependent on these activist groups for support that they sometimes feel they cannot go against them. I think this is why we are having a cloture vote, rather than an up- or-down vote on this amendment. At the end of the day, many of the same people who deny the necessity of this amendment do not want to have a vote it on their record.

So, rather than take on the other side's arguments, they avoid the issues and challenge the motives of those who support this amendment. My friends on the other side of the aisle claim that this amendment is discriminatory. My colleague from Massachusetts, Senator KENNEDY, is a good man. But he is out of line to say as he has that a vote for this amendment is a vote for bigotry pure and simple. Over half of his colleagues will vote for cloture on this amendment. Does he really want to suggest that over half of the United States Senate is a crew of bigots?

This is Dr. Dean's subtle diagnosis. Democrats are committed to fighting this hateful, divisive amendment and to fighting similarly discriminatory ballot initiatives in states across the country. We strongly oppose any attempt to write discrimination into law--whether it be at the local or state levels or in the United States Constitution.

Never--not once in any State--have the people's popularly elected representatives decided to amend traditional marriage laws to include same-sex couples. When given the chance, they affirm traditional marriage. In Vermont, in California, and in Washington there is statutory language preserving the traditional definition. Are the legislators and citizens who supported these laws engaged in discrimination?

Let me give you another example.

When Nevada considered a State constitutional amendment to preserve traditional marriage, a vast majority of the State's citizens supported the measure. For Nevadans, preserving traditional marriage was not a wedge issue. Divisive issues do not gamer 70 percent of the vote, as it did in 2000.

And so it was no surprise that the State's foremost public servant wholeheartedly supported this effort. Nevadans wanted to amend the State's constitution merely to affirm what has always been the law in Nevada and in the other States--that marriage is between one man and one woman.

That was then.

This is now.

Today, the Democratic Leader, who I count as a friend, has jumped on this bandwagon and said that this amendment would write discrimination into the Constitution.

So he supports unequivocally a State constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage, but he claims that it is discrimination at the national level.

Let me get this straight.

Since the colonies were first settled, traditional marriage has been the norm in this country. It remains so today with the exception of Massachusetts. In recent years the American people have reasserted in State after State their strong desire to maintain traditional marriage laws. So the beliefs of most Americans are discriminatory?

Was it discrimination when members supported their State constitutional amendments to protect traditional marriage?

Was it discrimination when 85 members of this body, including 32 Democrats, voted for DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act?

Was it discrimination when President Bill Clinton signed it?

Is it discrimination for our religious leaders to support traditional marriage?

The Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage. Does the Pope believe in discrimination?

Seventeen Catholic Bishops and all eight American Cardinals support this amendment. Do they support discrimination? That is what some of my colleagues are suggesting.

Is every parish priest who refuses to marry a same-sex couple engaged in discrimination?

My church supports traditional marriage. So do many other religions that recognize the importance of marriage between a man and a woman.

I do not think that some of my colleagues opposing this amendment have considered the full ramifications of a Federal court decision commanding same-sex marriage on the States. What happens to the tax status of a church that our courts have determined to be engaged in discriminatory conduct that cuts against the public policy of the State? We have seen a preview with the experience of Catholic Charities in Massachusetts. For decades, this noble organization has provided adoption services for hard-to-place children. Yet the State recently presented this organization with the catch-22 of abandoning the church's traditional teaching on human sexuality or abandoning their religious commitment to works of mercy. This is not a choice our churches and religious citizens should face, but it is, I fear, a choice that they will have to make unless we act.

Our history as a nation is dotted with instances of some outlier, activist judges who ignored their institutional limitations in order to replace their own public policy judgments for those of the American people and their representatives. It is hardly a surprise that some elite judges might underestimate the political and social consequences of their efforts to alter the legal framework of marriage. After all, most of the people that they know may be in favor of such changes.

Well, they are about to find out that there are people outside of their small universe of liberal opinion. If a few renegade judges determine that traditional marriage is unconstitutional, our previous political debates over improper judicial decisions will pale by comparison.

The fact remains that some judges are eager to replace the opinions of the American people with their own. Since the cloture vote on the marriage amendment in the 108th Congress, State trial courts in Washington, New York, California, and Maryland have struck down traditional marriage laws. The marriage laws of Connecticut have been challenged. The laws in Iowa have been challenged. A lawsuit has been filed in Federal court in Oklahoma that challenges not only a State constitutional amendment to preserve traditional marriage, but also the Federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Supreme Court of New Jersey seems poised to overturn the State's traditional marriage laws. A Federal court in Nebraska already struck down the State's constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage. Just a few weeks ago, a judge in Georgia invalidated an amendment passed by the State's voters in 2004.

Those who oppose traditional marriage are not playing by the rules. They are not convincing their fellow citizens of the merits of their cause. They are not taking their arguments to the legislatures. Rather, they are taking the easy way out. Just convince a few elite judges that they are on the side of justice, and traditional marriage laws will go the way of the dinosaurs.

According to this amendment's opponents, when well-funded liberal activist groups ask judges to subvert the will of the people in every State, they are not playing politics. When they ask a bare majority of judges to overturn traditional marriage laws and declare them discriminatory, they are merely seeking justice. Yet when the people's elected representatives attempt to preserve traditional marriage in this country, we are playing politics.

We must be respectful of homosexual citizens. They are our fellow citizens. And they, no less than we, are endowed with the rights that Thomas Jefferson elaborated in the Declaration of Independence. But we also live in a democracy. And in democracies the people get to determine social policy, not judges. We should take this opportunity to restore the authority of the people over public policy and their own constitutions. We should remind these judges that the judiciary does not have a method of reasoning superior to the people or their elected representatives. Judges are good at deciding cases. They are good at applying law. But when it comes to moral reasoning, there is nothing in their legal training or in our laws that gives a few activist judges a right to make wholesale social change at the expense of the traditions of the American people.

I support this amendment. It is merely a congressional affirmation of what the vast majority of citizens in Utah and across the country already believe--marriage should be between one man and one woman.

We have a long way to go, but as even this amendment's opponents know, the fact that legislation will not pass is no reason to avoid a debate. Only by debating can you build a consensus. The American people have already arrived at a consensus on this issue. They want to see traditional marriage remain the law of the land. I agree with that sentiment, and so I will be voting for cloture. I urge my colleagues to do the same.

I yield the floor.

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