Thursday, June 01, 2006

On the Low Road to November

The New York Times
On the Low Road to November

Republicans are trying to rally their far-right base for the fall elections with a mean-spirited sideshow threatening to the Constitution: a ban on same-sex marriage.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has endorsed the amendment, which would write bigotry into the nation's charter, by a 10-to-8 vote along party lines, and the full Senate is expected to take it up soon. Since the measure's language covers not only marriage but the "legal incidents" of marriage, its approval could jeopardize civil unions, domestic partnerships and other legal protections that many state and local governments now provide for same-sex couples and their children.

No one, including the G.O.P. strategists urging its fast-tracking, expects the amendment to get the two-thirds Congressional approval needed to send it to the states for consideration. Two years ago, when Republicans staged a Senate vote on the same dismal amendment just before the Democratic convention, it ran into unexpectedly broad opposition. Some conservatives correctly opposed grabbing power from the states by suddenly federalizing marriage law. Supporters of the amendment could muster only 48 votes, well shy of the 60 required to cut off debate and avoid a filibuster.

Plainly, the real purpose of this rerun is to provide red meat to social conservatives, and fodder for commericals aimed at senators who vote to block the atrocious amendment.

It is sad that Senator Arlen Specter, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who personally opposes the measure, chose to lend his gavel and vote to speed it to the floor. He got angry when Senator Russell Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat, objected in forceful terms to both the amendment and the politically motivated scheduling. Mr. Specter and the other members of his committee who approved the amendment have no reason to be angry — just ashamed.