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Marriage Protection Act of 2004

Location: Washington, DC

MARRIAGE PROTECTION ACT OF 2004 -- (House of Representatives - July 22, 2004)

Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, pursuant to House Resolution 734, I call up the bill (H.R. 3313) to amend title 28, United States Code, to limit Federal court jurisdiction over questions under the Defense of Marriage Act, and ask for its immediate consideration.


Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from Wisconsin for his leadership on this issue. I also want to thank the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Hostettler) for proposing this legislation and his leadership as well. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 3313, the Marriage Protection Act. This legislation prevents unelected lifetime appointed Federal judges from striking down the protections Congress afforded States through the Defense of Marriage Act.

The fact of the matter remains that marriage between a man and a woman has been and continues to be the cornerstone of our society. If we are going to change that, if we are going to make two men able to be married or two women able to be married in this country, and I do not think we should, but if we were, it ought to be done through the will of the people, and the will of the people is expressed through their elected representatives, either at the State legislature, whatever State they are located within, or the Congress of the United States, should we determine to take that on nationally.

Rather than having the elected representatives do this, it has been done piecemeal by a rogue mayor, for example, in San Francisco, or a court by a 4 to 3 decision in Massachusetts. So clearly what has happened here, and this is an issue that some on the other side of the aisle might think that Members on this side of the aisle want to be debating today, well, this is an issue which has been thrust upon us by rogue mayors and rogue courts, not something we chose but something we have to do.

The Subcommittee on the Constitution that I chair held four hearings focusing on the status of marriage in the United States. One of the hearings focused specifically on the issue we are considering today. That hearing clearly demonstrated that we could, if we wished, constitutionally strengthen the Defense of Marriage Act and limit the ability of activist Federal judges to force one State's controversial marriage laws on any other State by passing this legislation. We can clearly constitutionally do this.

Now as my colleagues know, in 1996 the House overwhelmingly passed the Defense of Marriage Act by a 342-67 vote. The Senate voiced similar support passing DOMA by a vote of 85-14. It was later signed into law by President Clinton. In passing DOMA, Congress recognized that controversial views on marriage adopted in one State should not be forced on other States. Understanding that marriage as defined by a State would have an impact across State lines, Congress exercised its authority under Article IV, Section 1 of the Constitution, the full faith and credit clause, to protect States right.

Under this provision, "full faith and credit should be given in each State to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other State; and the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof."

Today, 44 States have enacted laws defining marriage as between a man and woman. That is 88 percent of the States, and 86 percent of the population throughout the country. So far, 38 States have specifically rejected the recognition of same sex marriage licenses granted out of State. Unfortunately, the will of the States could be jeopardized by Federal judges. That is the point of this legislation.

H.R. 3313 will protect the provision of DOMA that keeps final authority of the will of the States with the States, not with Federal judges. Let me make something very clear. If Members voted for the Defense of Marriage Act or purport to support it now, Members must logically vote for the Marriage Protection Act, this law. Voting against this legislation will undermine DOMA and potentially force same-sex marriages on all 50 States.

The Constitution allows Congress to protect DOMA through judicial limitations set forth in H.R. 3313. Together, Article III, Sections 1 and 2 of the Constitution, provide that the Federal courts derive authority solely from Congress and the Supreme Court's appellate jurisdiction is subject to such exceptions and such regulations as the Congress shall make. Moreover, this authority was made clear as far back as the first Judiciary Act of 1789, which according to leading scholars "is widely viewed as an indicator of the original understanding of Article III."

Mr. Speaker, I strongly encourage my colleagues to support this legislation. It is very important.

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