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Gay Marriage Looms as US Political Issue - 2003-11-23

Congressional opponents of same-sex marriages say a constitutional amendment will be needed to safeguard the institution of matrimony in the United States, following a recent controversial state supreme court decision.

The topic of gay marriage dominated political talk shows in Washington Sunday.

On the ABC television program This Week, Colorado Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave criticized a recent ruling by Massachusetts' Supreme Court that said denying gay couples the benefits of civil marriage violates the state constitution. The Republican representative said gay activists had obtained, from non-elected judges, what they could not achieve through the legislative process. "If we are going to redefine marriage, let us let the American people and their elected representatives decide. That has not been the case [in Massachusetts]. They [gay marriage advocates] could not win in the legislative arena, so they shopped around for sympathetic judges and they have [succeeded] in Massachusetts," she said.

Representative Musgrave has authored a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage as an institution between a man and a woman. She says the amendment is necessary to override the Massachusetts decision, and preclude possible future judicial rulings at the federal level that would force other states to recognize gay marriages or legalize matrimony for homosexuals nationwide.

But for openly-gay Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, altering America's founding document to stop gay marriage would be unnecessary and unjust. The Democratic Congressman also spoke on This Week. "The real argument is," he said, "if Massachusetts, by its constitutional procedures, decides to allow two people who are in love to legalize that [relationship], why should the rest of the country come in and cancel it?"

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Illinois Republican Denny Hastert, said on the Fox News Sunday program he opposes gay marriage and would back a constitutional amendment to ban it. But he cautioned that changing the constitution is no easy task, requiring two-thirds approval in both houses of Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the states. "We can get it in the House," he said. "I am not sure you can get it in the Senate. And then you have to have the states ratify it. It is a long, hard process. And it is difficult to do; it is not [a sure thing]."

Also appearing on Fox News Sunday was Delaware Senator Joe Biden, who said he does not support a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage, even though he understands the concerns of religious groups and others who view homosexuality as sinful or immoral. "One of the things I think Americans are trying to figure out is whether or not a gay union somehow is a threat to a heterosexual union. And I have difficulty figuring out how it is such a threat, if in fact it brings stability [to gay relationships]. I do not know why we should be frightened of that," he said.

A recent public-opinion survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press shows a substantial majority of Americans, 59 percent, oppose allowing homosexuals to marry. The poll found that opposition to gay marriage is strongest among evangelical Christians, the elderly, and those lacking a college degree.