Press Release ● Human and Civil Rights
For Immediate Release: 
September 30, 2004
Contact Info: 
Stacey Farnen Bernards

WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer spoke today on the House Floor in opposition to the Republican leadership’s effort to amend the United States Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage.  The following is his statement as prepared for delivery:

“Mr. Speaker, first let me say that I support the traditional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  I voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

“But I believe – like Vice President Dick Cheney – that this is an issue that should be regulated by the states, as it has been throughout our nation’s history.  In fact, Mr. Speaker, even the chair of the House Republican Policy Committee (Mr. Cox) stated on Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal (and I quote):  ‘The Federal marriage amendment would do more harm than good were it to be enshrined in our charter.’

“Through their legislatures and courts, the states have proven quite capable of determining the legal definition of marriage.  And I believe the proper venue to consider decisions affecting this issue is in state courts and legislatures – not through an amendment to the United States Constitution.

“Thus, I oppose this constitutional amendment, which at its core is based in intolerance and is a patently obvious effort to energize a part of the Republican Party’s base and inflame the passions of others.  None of us should ignore the Republican majority’s real intent here today.  This constitutional amendment represents the perfect marriage of raw political cynicism and distraction.
Everyone in this chamber understands that this amendment is not going to pass.  In fact, Mr. Cox, in the Wall Street Journal, admitted:  ‘The federal marriage amendment is more symbol than substance, given the near impossibility of a two-thirds vote.’ 

“Even the majority leader himself (Mr. DeLay) acknowledged as much this week, telling CongressDaily (and I quote):  ‘I think it’s really important [to put members on record] particularly before an election.’  The Majority Leader’s decision to move this amendment to the floor, just seven months after stating that it was unlikely to be considered this year, is more than ironic.

“The purpose in bringing this amendment to the floor today – just four weeks before the election – is to create the fodder for a demagogic political ad that appeals to voters’ worst fears and prejudices rather than their best instincts.

“Finally, Mr. Speaker, given that this amendment is not going to pass, it is nothing short of amazing that we are spending time debating this issue on the floor today.

“Again, as our colleague from California (Mr. Cox) pointed out: ‘There have been more than 130 amendments to the Constitution proposed in our history regarding marriage; not one has received a vote in the House or Senate until now.’

“At midnight tonight, the new fiscal year begins.  And how many of the 13 must-pass appropriations bills for fiscal 2005 have been enacted?   One.  Just one.  Mr. Speaker, the Republican majority’s legislative malfeasance is on full display today.  The appropriations process is in meltdown.

“This Republican Congress has failed to enact a budget; failed to enact intelligence reform; failed to enact energy reform; failed to enact reauthorizations for transportation and higher education.  The list goes on and on.  And yet, with all that outstanding legislation to complete, we are debating a constitutional amendment that will not pass.

“Mr. Speaker, this Republican majority has failed.  The American people deserve better.  I urge my colleagues to vote against this amendment.”