2 min

American amendments

While same-sex marriage continues to make its way across Canada, rightwingers in the US are seeking to make it a wedge issue in the run-up to November’s presidential election. Both the US House Of Representatives and Senate have been dealing with motions to block same-sex marriage. Through all this, queer lobbyists are targeting Vice-president Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter.

Three separate bills have been tabled in the US as President George W Bush uses what California Senator Barbara Boxer calls his “weapon of mass distraction” to divert attention from the failure of the war in Iraq.

On Jul 14, the US Senate defeated the Federal Marriage Amendment. This resolution, supported by Bush, would have changed the American Constitution to define marriage as only “the union of a man and a woman.”

“We have wasted precious time,” stated Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy, a Democrat. “We have far better things to do in the Senate than write bigotry and prejudice into the Constitution. We should deal with the real issues of war and peace, jobs and the economy, and the many other priorities that so urgently demand our action in these troubled times.”

The bill failed on a 48-50 procedural vote; it needed 60 votes to pass, according to the rules of the Senate – it’s hard to change the US Constitution. Forty-three Democrats, one independent senator and six Republicans voted against it, while 45 Republicans and three Democrats were in favour.

Democratic presidential candidates John Kerry and John Edwards were not in the Senate for the vote, but have stated they opposed the amendment. The way politics work in the US, it’s possible to be against both the bill and same-sex marriage – some conservatives think any such amendment wrongly interferes with state rights.

The week previous, Congress referred a similar bill, introduced by Republican Representative Jo Ann Davis of Virginia, to the house committee on government reform. That bill would ensure that the definition of marriage in the District Of Columbia would refer only to hetero-sexual unions.

In the House Judiciary Committee a 21-13 vote saw the Marriage Protection Act move forward. This legislation is intended to prohibit any federal court, including the Supreme Court, from reinterpreting the 1996 Defence Of Marriage Act that defined marriage as between one man and one woman.

The State Of Massachusetts began performing same-sex marriages on May 17 following an earlier positive court decision, by what Bush calls “activist judges.” The battle continued on Jul 14 in that state as eight out-of-state couples challenged a 1913 law that prohibits marriages that would be illegal in a couple’s state of residence.

Meanwhile the campaign targets Mary Cheney, a paid political advisor (reportedly earning $100,000 US a year) to her dad’s campaign. An out lesbian and political activist, Cheney encouraged gay and lesbian voters to support the Republicans in 2000, promising to help move the party toward “compassionate conservatism.” The campaign is trying to get Cheney to convince her dad to support same-sex marriage.