Leahy Questions Need for Senate Vote on Gay Marriage

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(Host) In Washington, the Senate Republican leadership is planning a mid-July vote on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, wants to know what the rush is. The Judiciary Committee held its final hearing on Tuesday before the issue goes before the full Senate.

Chad Pergram reports from Capitol Hill.

(Pergram) Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch came down hard on what he called four unelected Massachusetts judges who “imposed the gay marriage experiment on the entire nation.”

Hatch summoned Republican Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney to testify about his experience with gay marriage. Romney faced tough questions from Patrick Leahy, the leading Democrat on the Senate Judiciary panel.

(Romney) “I actually believe that marriage is fundamental to our society. And for people who think it’s just an accessory to life in this country, and it’s a social-“
(Leahy) “What I’m saying is, why is Massachusetts such a crisis for the country?”
(Romney) “Well, because Massachusetts has redefined marriage for the entire country. And therefore the definition of marriage will be applied in other states as it is in Massachusetts.”
(Leahy) “Wouldn’t it be a good idea to wait and see if that happens?”

(Pergram) Romney said he was concerned that his state was going to have to change its birth certificates, striking the lines “father and mother” for “Parent A and B.”

(Romney) “What should be the ideal for raising a child? Not a village, not Parent A and Parent B, but a mother and a father.”

(Pergram) But Leahy charged that Romney and other Republicans weren’t truly concerned about families and parents when it came to gay marriage.

(Leahy) “This debate is not about preserving the sanctity of marriage. It’s about preserving a Republican White House and Senate. Let’s be honest.”

(Pergram) Leahy said the judiciary panel had an “obsessive focus” on gay marriage. And he questioned why the Senate needed to pass a constitutional amendment when no court has yet ruled on the constitutionality of the federal law limiting marriage to a man and a woman.

(Leahy) “I don’t think sky has fallen. I imagine most Americans have not felt any affects from developments in Massachusetts. Many would be mystified and dismayed by this committee’s fascination with this topic.”

(Pergam) Some Senate Democrats accuse the GOP of holding the July vote to embarrass presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry just before the Democratic National Convention.

The House of Representatives holds a gay marriage hearing later this week. But the full House hasn’t yet scheduled a vote on a constitutional amendment.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Chad Pergram on Capitol Hill.

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