(Host) Republican congressional candidate Greg Parke says he believes individual states should be allowed to develop their own approaches to the issue of gay marriage. Parke says he would have voted for a bill in the U.S. House last week that would have made it impossible for federal judges to rule on pertinent sections of the Defense of Marriage Act. Congressman Bernie Sanders says the bill is unconstitutional and sets a very dangerous legal precedent for the future.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) The House vote was scheduled after backers of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage failed to get enough votes in the U.S. Senate to bring their proposal up for debate.
Supporters of the House bill argued that their legislation was needed to prevent activist federal judges, including the United States Supreme Court, from overturning a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that allows individual states to refuse to recognize same sex marriages from other states.
The House gave its approval to the bill on a vote that fell largely along party lines: most Republicans supported it, most Democrats opposed it. Republican U.S. House candidate Greg Parke says the bill is needed because liberals often turn to the courts when they are unable to achieve their goals through the legislative branch of government:
(Parke) “Mr. Sanders always claims about wanting to have a democracy yet he wants to have a very limited number of elite judges make a decision for the rest of the country on a divisive moral issue that I think is best served in the Legislature. That’s what legislatures are there for – for debate and developing consensus.”
(Kinzel) Sanders voted against the bill because he says it’s unconstitutional and turns the separation of powers on its head:
(Sanders) “We can do anything we want on the floor of the House, no matter how unconstitutional it is and we’re not going to let the Supreme Court decide on that. That is just absolutely incredible. You’re wiping out the separation of powers. This is a huge deal and it really just should tell the American people regardless of their opinions on gay marriage or DOMA or anything else just how extremist the leadership is of the House of Representatives.”
(Kinzel) Parke doesn’t share Sanders’ concerns:
(Parke) “I don’t think it sets any legal precedent. The constitution sets the precedent. The constitution is very, very clear that the Congress can do exactly what it just did.”
(Kinzel) The measure now goes to the Senate for its consideration. Leaders in that chamber say it’s unlikely that the proposal will come up for a vote before the fall.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.