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

Sunni-Shi’ite Divide Threatens Middle East Stability

Analysts say ancient dispute that traces back to Islamic Revolution is fueling modern day unrest More

Shifting Demographics Lie Beneath Racial Tensions in Ferguson

As Missouri suburb morphed from majority white to majority black, observers say power structure remained static More

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Restriction is toughest since Soviet era, though critics reject move as patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid