Wednesday, May 17, 2006

On the MPA

That's the Marriage Protection Amendment, for the uninitiated.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, under the chairmanship of Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, is scheduled to take up for consideration the Marriage Protection Amendment tomorrow morning at 9 AM. Assuming it passes the GOP-dominated committee, it will be scheduled for floor action in the US Senate during the week of June 5.

Here's what was introduced as S.J.Res. 1 on January 24, 2005:

1st Session
S. J. RES. 1

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage.


January 24, 2005

Mr. ALLARD (for himself, Mr. INHOFE, Mr. LOTT, Mr. ENZI, Mr. DEMINT, Mr. SANTORUM, Mr. CRAPO, Mr. SESSIONS, Mr. VITTER, Mr. THUNE, Mr. ALEXANDER, Mr. FRIST, Mr. TALENT, Mr. BURR, Mrs. HUTCHISON, Mr. KYL, Mrs. DOLE, Mr. MARTINEZ, Mr. ISAKSON, Mr. MCCONNELL, Mr. HATCH, Mr. ROBERTS, Mr. CORNYN, Mr. STEVENS, and Mr. COBURN) introduced the following joint resolution; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States:

`SECTION 1. This article may be cited as the `Marriage Protection Amendment'.
`SECTION 2. 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.'.

Note that it was given the designation Senate Joint Resolution 1 -- "1" being the key. Though it was introduced by Wayne Allard of Colorado, its designation as the FIRST joint resolution (read: Constitutional amendment) was chosen by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

My friend Dick Polman, one of the best political reporters in the country -- he writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer -- just asked me via email whether or not I thought moving the marriage amendment to the floor was a good political strategy for a GOP struggling to get things right in time for the November elections.

Here's how I responded:

"According to recent polls, the biggest reason for the President’s drop in the polls is that a significant portion of the Republican base — upwards of 30 percent — now disapprove of his job performance. This is an historic turnaround for him — through the course of his first term, and into the 2004 election, he was holding 90 percent support among Republicans. Bringing back disaffected Republicans is the fastest way to return his overall job approval ratings to his historic norm, and, therefore, one of the keys to rebuilding the GOP coalition in time for the November elections.

"The first question, then, is to determine what’s causing the disaffection among the “missing” Republicans. I see no reason to believe that it’s dissatisfaction on the social front — Republicans are increasingly unhappy over Iraq, just as is the rest of the country. And Republicans (and conservatives in particular) are VERY unhappy about continued out of control federal spending. Many Republicans were unhappy about the state of play on the social issues front two years ago, and they’re still unhappy — but I don’t see them being any MORE unhappy than they were.

"Nevertheless, it’s clear that the missing Republicans who are most likely to be moved to work their butts off for the Party’s candidates in the mid-term elections are the social conservatives. They always have been. On the one hand, they’ve gotten two huge thank-yous as a result of their work in the 2004 elections — their thank-yous are named Roberts and Alito, and they now sit on the Supreme Court. But that’s clearly not enough, because there are two issues that are motivating them in addition to court appointments — federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, and the Federal Marriage Amendment. They worked hard to get George W. Bush — and a Republican Senate and a Republican House — reelected in 2004, and they have every right to expect that their concerns will be addressed.

"Remember, too, that strategists, when laying out a legislative strategy to serve a political end, don’t just look at showing party commitment to coalition groups’ priorities; they also look to what issues can be used to define the electoral terrain to their advantage. The country overwhelmingly opposes the new “definition” of marriage being written by liberal activist judges — in every state where the matter has been put before the voters, traditional marriage has won by a 2-1 margin. It isn’t just “social conservatives” who are winning by those margins — when you get 70-30 and 65-35 splits on these issues, you’re clearly going way beyond the social conservative base, and reaching into Independent territory.

"So ... Is this a good strategy for the Party? Yes, it is, to the extent that it moves the electoral battleground to a terrain where one side is defending traditional marriage, and the other side is defending liberal activist judges."

Then I remembered something I had written on this blog a few nights ago, and I sent him another email:

"I forgot to add:

"The depth of support for traditional marriage can be seen in DNC Chairperson Howard Dean’s recent interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network, in which he tried to reduce his presumed audience’s opposition to Democrats by stating — quite incorrectly, as he was later forced to acknowledge — that “The Democratic Party platform from 2004 says that marriage is between a man and a woman. That's what it says."

"Here’s your potential money quote from me:

"When the chairman of the opposing party goes on national television and tries to get away with a bald-faced lie to make voters think his party stands with them on a given issue, you know it’s an issue that helps you and hurts them."


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