Canton Repository

July 15, 2004

Gay marriage amendment fails despite Ohio support

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — A proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage failed to draw enough support in the Senate on Wednesday to bring the measure to a vote.

Ohio’s two Republican senators, Mike DeWine and George Voinovich, would have voted for the amendment, but with reservations, they said.

They felt it was not yet necessary.

The amendment, authored by Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., would define marriage as solely between a man and a woman. It also would prevent the U.S. Constitution or any state constitution from being “construed” to require the validity of same-sex marriage.

Forty-eight senators including DeWine and Voinovich voted to limit debate and consider the amendment, short of the 60 needed. Fifty voted to block it.

It would have taken 67 votes to approve the actual amendment, which also would need the approval of the House and ratification by at least 38 states.

While DeWine and Voinovich believe marriage should be limited to male-female unions, they said it was a mistake to consider the amendment before federal courts had ruled in favor of gay marriage or required states to recognize same-sex marriage.

Before the vote, Voinovich predicted the amendment would fail, as it did. He said failure “would make it harder to pass an amendment if one were eventually needed.”

President Bush endorsed the proposal, while Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, opposed it.

Meanwhile, area congressmen divided on the amendment, with Republicans favoring it and Democrats opposed.

“By and large I think I would be supportive” of the amendment, said Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township.

Regula said gay marriage raises a number of questions, including whether a gay spouse would be eligible for a partner’s Social Security benefits.

“I’m not sure we’re ready for that yet,” he said.

Rep. Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, is a co-sponsor of the amendment in the House.

Ney favors a federal definition of marriage. Each state has historically had the authority to define marriage as it sees fit.

“I just think it raises a ton of legal questions” to have different state definitions, he said.

Ney is backing a House bill that would bar legal challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that allows states not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Lisbon, opposes the amendment and supports at least some form of gay union.

“This is an evolving situation,” said Strickland, who believes it is only a matter of time before gay marriage is widely recognized.

“I absolutely believe that adults should be able to enter into legal relationships which give them the legal rights and privileges that are usually associated with the marriage relationship,” he said.

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, called the amendment unnecessary.

“Ohio and other states are already legally protected from having to recognize same-sex marriage,” he said in a statement. “This is a politically motivated solution to a non-problem and a shameful distraction from all the challenges our nation is facing.”

Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Lorain, considers the amendment a waste of Congress’ time.

Opponents have faulted the proposal for taking power away from states to define marriage.

Democratic lawmakers criticized the amendment as a political gimmick designed to galvanize support for Bush and Republican candidates among social conservatives.

Backers, however, insisted it is necessary to prevent federal courts from declaring prohibitions against gay marriage unconstitutional.

“The constitutional problem created by almost a decade of activist lawsuits to destroy our marriage laws demands a constitutional fix,” said Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage, which supports the proposal.

DeWine and Voinovich, who held off on supporting the amendment until shortly before the vote, faulted their own party’s leadership for advancing the amendment.

Voinovich “hasn’t been happy with the way leadership has brought this to the floor and the timing of it,” his spokeswoman Marcie Ridgway said.

Amanda Flaig, DeWine’s spokeswoman, said the senator “strongly feels it’s unfortunate the issue had to come up now.”