Today, we take up the
valuable time of the U.S. Senate with a proposed amendment to our
Constitution that has absolutely no chance of passing.
We do this, allegedly,
in an attempt to uphold the institution of marriage in this country.
We do this despite the fact that for over two hundred years, Americans
have been defining and defending marriage on the state and local
level without any help from the U.S. Constitution at all.
And yet, we're here anyway
because it's an election year - because the party in power has decided
that the best way to get voters to the polls is not by talking about
Iraq or health care or energy or education, but about a constitutional
ban on same-sex marriage that they have no chance of passing.
Now, I realize that for
some Americans, this is an important issue. And I should say that
personally, I do believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.
But let's be honest. That's
not what this debate is about. Not at this time.
This debate is an attempt
to break a consensus that is quietly being forged in this country.
It's a consensus between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and
conservatives, Red States and Blue States, that it's time for new
leadership in this country - leadership that will stop dividing
us, stop disappointing us, and start addressing the problems facing
It's a consensus between
a majority of Americans who say, "You know what, maybe some
of us are comfortable with gay marriage right now and some of us
are not. But most of us do believe that gay couples should be able
to visit each other in the hospital and share health care benefits;
most of us do believe that they should be treated with dignity and
have their privacy respected by the federal government."
And we all know that if
this amendment were to pass, it would close the door on much of
this - because we know that when similar amendments passed in places
like Ohio and Michigan and Utah, domestic partnership benefits were
taken away from gay couples.
This is not what the majority
of the American people want. And this is not about trying to build
consensus in this country; it's not about trying to bring people
This is about winning an
election. That's why the issue was last raised in July of 2004,
and that's why we haven't heard about it again until now. And while
this is supposedly a measure that the other party raised to appeal
to some of its core supporters, I don't know how happy I'd be if
my party only talked about an issue I cared about right around election
time - especially if they knew it had no chance of passing.
I agree with most Americans,
with Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Cheney, with
over 2,000 religious leaders of all different beliefs, that decisions
about marriage, as they always have, should be left to the states.
Today, we should take this
amendment only for what it is - a political ploy designed to rally
a few supporters and draw the country's attention away from this
leadership's past failures and America's future challenges.
There is plenty of work
to be done in this country. There are millions without health care
and skyrocketing gas prices and children in crumbling schools and
thousands of young Americans risking their lives in Iraq.
So don't tell me that this
is the best use of our time. Don't tell me that this is what people
want to see talked about on TV and in the newspapers all day. We
wonder why the American people have such a low opinion of Washington
these days. This is why.
We are better than this.
And we certainly owe the American people more than this. I know
that this amendment will fail, and when it does, I hope we can start
discussing issues and offering proposals that will actually improve
the lives of most Americans.