News / USA

Gay Marriage Battle Reverberates at US Capitol

Washington Week: Focus on Gay Marriagei
X
March 24, 2013 8:10 PM
Congress is idle this week, but Washington will be far from quiet. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear two landmark cases on same-sex marriage, one of the most contentious and emotionally-charged issues confronting the nation. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.

Gay Marriage Battle Reverberates at US Capitol

Michael Bowman
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear two landmark cases on same-sex marriage.  While justices ponder the constitutionality of laws restricting gay-marriage rights, across the street from the court - at the U.S. Capitol - the politics of homosexuality in general, and same-sex marriage in particular, are shifting.  
 
Earlier this month, Senator Rob Portman became the first Republican in the chamber to endorse same-sex marriage.
 
“The joy and the stability of marriage that I have had for 26 years - I want all three of my kids to have it, including our son, who is gay," he said. 
 
The announcement, on CNN, did nothing to change the opinions of fellow-Republican senators like Orrin Hatch.
 
“We are friends [Portman and I].  But where we differ is I do not believe we should change the traditional definition of marriage," he said. 
 
The cases before the Supreme Court include a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of same-sex unions.  The law, known as DOMA, received strong bipartisan support when it was enacted in 1996, including from then-Senator Robert Byrd, a Democrat.
 
“To insist that male-male or female-female relationships must have the same status as the marriage relationship is more than unwise.  It is patently absurd," he said. 
 
But others who voted for DOMA have had a change of heart.  Democratic Senator Tom Harkin said, “It is not the only vote I regret, but it is one of them.  It was not a good vote . I have changed my whole view on that completely.”
 
Public-opinion polls show a growing majority backing same-sex marriage rights.  A decade ago, barely one-in-three Americans did so.
 
Democratic Senator Richard Durbin says, until recently, Republicans used the issue to hammer Democrats at the voting booth.
 
“We [Democrats] used to jokingly say that the campaign against all Democrats was on the issues of ‘God, gays, and guns’," he said. 
 
More recently, the tide has turned.  Democrats, including President Barack Obama, have won elections proclaiming support for same-sex marriage.  Senator Durbin, who voted for DOMA in 1996, applauds the turn of events.
 
“Younger generations think that positions supporting marriage equality are more consistent with their values and vision of America.  And Democrats have led in [reflecting] that, and maybe we will benefit [politically] from it.  But at least many of us feel we are in the right position in terms of America’s values," he said. 
 
To be clear, some Democratic lawmakers do not endorse same-sex marriage, and some Republicans are urging their party to rethink the issue.  
 
University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato said, “Within the Republican Party, a majority still opposes same-sex marriage.  It is a real dilemma for Republicans.  It is a loser for them, and they know it.  They cannot endorse it, because of the social conservatives.  They cannot oppose it, because of their need for a broader constituency, to reach out to voters before they become a permanent minority party.”
 
Sabato says Democrats have reaped benefits from backing gay rights, and not just at the ballot box. “It has helped the Democrats, certainly in fundraising.  The gay and lesbian population pours money into the Democratic Party," he said. 
 
The Supreme Court could uphold anti-gay marriage laws or strike them down as unconstitutional.  If struck down, the court could conceivably pave the way for same-sex marriage rights nationwide.  Larry Sabato says such an outcome would reduce the political potency of the issue for Democrats and Republicans.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Official Pleased With Ebola Containment Measure

Official says three-day sensitization effort will help reduce infection rate of Ebola disease nationwide More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid