House Judiciary Chair Opposes Anti-Gay Amendment

Mon. August 25, 2003 12:00 AM by

Washington, D.C. - A proposal to amend the Constitution to prevent same-sex marriage may be dead in the water. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., the powerful head of the House Judiciary Committee, says there is no need for an Amendment.

Any bill to change the Constitution must pass through Sensenbrenner's committee.

The Republican congressman says he is opposed to gay marriage, but adds the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which he helped write is sufficient.

Sensenbrenner's comments come a week after the co-author of DOMA, former congressman Bob Barr argued a Constitutional Amendment would be "unnecessary and needlessly intrusive and punitive." (story)

The proposal to amend the Constitution was first made by Marilyn Musgrave, a Colorado Republican. Musgrave's Federal Marriage Amendment has more than 70 cosponsors although none of the top GOP leadership in the House has signed on.

When told of Sensenbrenner's remarks, Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin called them "very significant," since a committee chairman could choose not to schedule the matter "for any type of consideration." Baldwin is the first out lesbian to serve in Congress.

In the Senate, meanwhile, hearings are planned on the measure.

Amending the Constitution requires two-thirds approval of both the House and Senate and ratification by three-quarters of the states.

"It's been done only 27 times in over 200 years," Sensenbrenner said. "It's very strong medicine."

He said the 1996 law defines marriage as being between a man and woman and gives states the option of not recognizing gay marriages or civil unions approved by other states.

by Paul Johnson Newscenter
Washington Bureau Chief
©® 2003

This article originally appeared on Republished with permission.