VT delegates oppose gay marriage amendment

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(Host) All three members of Vermont’s congressional delegation say they will oppose a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay says he’ll introduce the proposal following a decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court that requires lawmakers in that state to draft legislation giving gay couples all of the rights of marriage.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) If a proposal to amend the federal constitution to ban gay marriage comes to the floor of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House for a vote, Vermont’s congressional delegation will actively oppose its passage.

Senator Patrick Leahy, the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary committee, says there’s no need for the amendment.

Leahy says marriage laws should be determined by individual states not the federal government.

(Leahy) Forty-nine states at least say that marriage is between a man and a woman. They’re all protected in that they don’t need a U.S. Constitution amendment to do that. Every state so far says that marriage has to be between a man and a woman. There is nothing that can override that states have the right to make that determination. We don’t need to be amending the constitution.

(Kinzel) Senator James Jeffords agrees that the issue of defining marriage should be decided at the state level.

(Jeffords) We ought to leave it up to the states and then let the states do matters like this. They’re not life and death situations; they ought to let the Legislatures of the states make sure that the people are pleased with the way the complications of gay marriage are taken care of. So I think for the federal government to get involved with it would be very, very wrong.

(Kinzel) Congressman Bernie Sanders says the proposed amendment is a political ploy designed to take the public’s attention away from the real issues facing the country.

(Sanders) What’s going on in Iraq, why the rich get richer, the middle class is shrinking, why we lose decent paying jobs, why our health care system is disintegrating, why we pay the most high prices in the world for prescription drugs… They have nothing to say on those issues because they work for large multinational corporations. So in order to get votes, what they’re going to have to do is engage in homophobia, in race baiting, in ways that they can divide the American people.

(Kinzel) Governor Jim Douglas says he’ll also oppose any plan to amend the federal constitution to ban gay marriage because he feels each state should be allowed to make its own decision concerning marriage laws.

While the governor says the Vermont legislature may have acted too quickly in passing the Civil Unions law, he believes that most Vermonters have now adjusted to the legislation.

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