Who Does the Republican (Anti-Gay) Magic Bullet Shoot?

05/25/2011 11:50 am ET
  • Hilary Rosen Communications, media and political strategist

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Federal Marriage Amendment out of Committee this morning on a party line vote of 10-8. Every Republican including Arlen Specter (who was for it before he was against it) voted for it. The following is a smart piece by the brilliant Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign. HRC is the nation's largest organization working for LGBT equality. I hope Karl Rove reads Joe's remarks:

Who does the Republican Magic Bullet Shoot? by Joe Solmonese

What do you get when you cross a right-wing Republican presidential wannabe with a new Washington Post/ABC News poll showing that 56 percent of Americans want the party in control tossed out on its ear? The ugly and divisive Federal Marriage Amendment, passed today in the Senate Judiciary Committee. It's an election year, after all, and we knew it was coming. Well, here it is.

Earlier this week, David Kirkpatrick's article in the New York Times, "Conservative Christians Warn Republicans Against Inaction," set the stage for the right-wing extremists in control of the Republican Party to once again flex their muscle. When Richard Land from the Southern Baptist Convention starts saying, "A lot of people are disappointed that he hasn't put as much effort into the marriage amendment as he did for the prescription drug benefit or Social Security reform," and when James Dobson warns, "There's just very, very little to show for what has happened and I think there's going to be some trouble down the road if they don't get on the ball," it is only a matter of time -- three days to be exact -- before Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist asks, "How high?"

Frist promised his extremist right-wing base back in February that he would guarantee a vote on the discriminatory Federal Marriage Amendment the week of June 5. Today, moved from a public hearing room to deep inside the dark bowels of the Capitol, away from the public's light, the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to mark up that bill and send yet another signal to the Lands and Dobsons of the world to hold tight -- their promised vote is coming. While Frist and company play right-wing base politics, the American people continue to be caught in the middle.

An April 2006 poll by Peter D. Hart Research Associates Inc. shows voters rank the issue dead last on a list of priorities. Health care affordability and the war in Iraq come in as the top two issues. Even the flag burning amendment -- another divisive issue -- ranks higher than marriage. A recent Gallup poll didn't even rank marriage on a list of voter priorities. With leaders like Senator Frist, it is no wonder that 69 percent of Americans in the newest Washington Post/ABC News poll now think the country is totally off track.

Some sources inside the halls of Congress are reporting that the amendment as it currently reads, "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman," could be altered, bypass the committee process and come directly to the floor for a vote. The alteration would drop the second sentence and stick strictly with, "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman."

Groups on the right are conflicted over the one- versus two-sentence approach. Essentially, it comes down to trying to ban marriages and civil unions outright or leaving it vaguer and trying to get civil unions banned through court rulings. Either way, whether their discriminatory amendment is 40 pages or one sentence, any amendment that writes discrimination into the Constitution is wrong.

This year is not the same political environment that those pushing this type of amendment have been used to in the past. We are in a post-Terri Schiavo world where voters see this type of intrusion as another example of the government trying to control people's private lives. The Republican Party is fractured, with Senator McCain, Vice President Cheney, Rudolph Guiliani and conservative commentator George Will all opposing an amendment to the Constitution. And in a recent New York Times article, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who voted for the amendment in 2004, said, "Gay marriage is not the magic bullet to get us out of our situation."