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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora