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Federal Marriage Amendment - Motion to Proceed

Location: Washington DC

Mr. HATCH. How much time remains on both sides?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Utah has 10 minutes, the Senator from Vermont has 4 minutes 46 seconds, and each of the leaders has 5 minutes.

Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, we have heard that this amendment has been compared to prohibition, kiosks, and bumper stickers. We have heard some eloquent and passionate speeches in the Senate these past few days. It is obviously an issue many feel strongly about. I make a couple of things clear before we vote on whether we can even debate this amendment postcloture.

First, the proponents of this amendment are not seeking a policy change. We are simply trying to preserve more than a 5,000-year-old institution, the most fundamental in all of our society, that a few unelected, activist judges are trying to radically change.

Some of my colleagues suggest we do not need a national policy on marriage. Guess what. We have always had one. When my home State of Utah wanted to enter into this great Union, the Federal Government conditioned such acceptance on our adoption of a one-man, one-woman marriage policy. The Federal Government understood then what we still know today, that children are best off having a mother and a father.

Most of my colleagues agree. Some argue it does not belong in the Constitution. The Constitution properly deals with foundational questions of how our Nation should be organized.

Traditional male-female marriage is the universal arrangement for the ordering of society and ensuring future generations. If a foundational institution such as this is not deserving of our protection in our Constitution, then I don't know what is.

There are others who agree on preserving traditional marriage and agree an amendment may be necessary at some point in the future. We do not need to wait. Judges have already sanctioned marriage licenses for same-gender couples and those couples have spread to 46 States. Folks, marriage has already been amended by the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

Some of my colleagues say the Defense of Marriage Act will contain the spread to other States, but we know this is a flimsy shield, at best. There are multiple actions pending against it now and legal scholars across the political spectrum agree it is only a matter of time-not if, or when-the Defense of Marriage Act will be struck down.

We should be wary of those who argued back in 1996 that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional and now are hiding behind this act to argue against the need for a constitutional amendment. Members simply cannot have it both ways. If Members believe a marriage should be between a man and a woman and Members believe the Federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, then they should support the Federal marriage amendment.

We know from other countries that have undermined marriage the way the Massachusetts Supreme Court did that a message is sent to everyone that marriage is not important. Fewer couples get married, out-of-wedlock births skyrocket. We do not need to wait for these disastrous results to happen to our country.

We have the chance to send the message here that marriage and family do matter. This is not an irrational fear derived from an extreme religious agenda, as my colleague from Vermont, Senator Jeffords, suggested yesterday. We know from the benefit of experience in Scandinavia, Denmark, and elsewhere, what happens. Everyone in society benefits when we strengthen the family.

As far as I am concerned, this debate has been a triumph for democracy. We have debated these issues. I, for one, have learned quite a bit from listening to my colleagues. I hope the American people have, as well.

I urge my colleagues to vote yes on the motion to proceed. If there is a way to improve the language, the only way we can do so is to vote for cloture and have a real debate rather than the filibuster we are putting up with.

I make it clear nobody wants to discriminate against gays. Simply put, we want to preserve traditional marriage. Gays have a right to live the way they want. But they should not have the right to change the definition of traditional marriage. That is where we draw the line.

I compliment people on both sides of the debate for at least debating as much as we can, but it would be far better to vote cloture and have a full-fledged debate on this amendment. If it needs to be changed or modified, or if it can be made better, both sides then will have an opportunity to try and amend it.
I reserve the remainder of my time.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon.

Who yields time?

Mr. HATCH. I yield the remainder of my time to the distinguished Senator from Oregon.

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