House Rejects Amendment to Ban Same-Sex Marriage

Times Staff Writer

A proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage failed to pass in the House on Tuesday, completing congressional debate on the issue that critics charged was an empty, election-year charade conducted to appease socially conservative voters.

The measure had failed to win the two-thirds majority it needed for Senate approval last month. And vote-counters in both parties had predicted it would fall well-short of that threshold in the House.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Jul. 21, 2006 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday July 21, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 51 words Type of Material: Correction
Same-sex marriage vote: An article in Wednesday’s Section A about the House rejecting a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage said all except two of California’s 20 House members voted in favor of the measure. It should have said all but two of the state’s Republican House members voted for it.

“We know this is not going anywhere; we know that it is merely a political exercise,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in criticizing House Republican leaders for scheduling a vote on the amendment.

The measure’s supporters, however, argued that lawmakers had to be put on the record on the issue.


“The overwhelming majority of the American people support traditional marriage,” said Rep. Marilyn N. Musgrave (R-Colo.), the amendment’s sponsor. “And the people have a right to know whether their elected representatives agree with them.”

The amendment, which would have constitutionally prohibited any marriage other than one between a man and a woman, won majority support, 236 to 187. But that tally was 46 votes shy of the 289 needed to pass.

Voting for the measure were 202 Republicans and 34 Democrats; opposing it were 159 Democrats, 27 Republicans and one independent.

All of California’s 33 Democratic representatives voted against the amendment. All except two of the state’s 20 House members voted in favor of it; the exceptions were Reps. David Dreier of San Dimas and Mary Bono of Palm Springs.


In a statement released after her vote, Bono called the amendment “an overreaching approach to an issue of significant concern to many individuals and families.”

Supporters argued that “activist judges” who wished to legalize gay marriage posed a threat to traditional marriage.

“Marriage is not about love; it’s about a love that can bear children,” said Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.). “Marriage is about bringing the next generation along, and it works best when it’s one mom and one dad.”

Both houses rejected a similar constitutional amendment in 2004.


Tuesday’s vote came after several recent court decisions at the state level that were setbacks for gay-marriage advocates. New York’s Supreme Court ruled that its state constitution did not grant same-sex couples the right to wed. And the high court for Massachusetts, the only state that allows gay marriage, ruled that a proposed constitutional amendment to ban future same-sex marriages could be placed on the ballot.

Overall, 45 of the 50 states have either state constitutional amendments banning gay marriage or state statutes outlawing same-sex weddings.

House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) defended the decision to bring the proposed federal amendment to a vote, saying it was an important part of his party’s “American Values Agenda” heading into November’s elections.

Another piece of that agenda, a measure to protect the Pledge of Allegiance wording, is set for a vote in the House today.


Opponents accused House GOP leaders of bringing up the amendment in an effort to drive turnout by conservative voters this November.

“Shame on this House for playing politics with bigotry,” Nadler said.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) accused Republicans of focusing on narrow “wedge” issues aimed at dividing the public instead of on the broader problems facing the country.

The amendment, she said, was “brought to this floor with the full knowledge that it has no prospects for success, either now or in the foreseeable future. This is a partisan exercise by Republicans to divide the American people, rather than forge consensus to solve our urgent problems.”


Musgrave argued that the amendment was needed to ensure that -- the recent legal trends notwithstanding -- judges would not invalidate state measures limiting marriage to a man and a woman.

“If marriage can mean anything, eventually marriage will mean nothing,” Musgrave said.