Gay Marriage Ban Fails

CNN – Same-sex marriage ban fails in Senate

Efforts to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage foundered Wednesday afternoon in the Senate when the proposal failed to garner enough votes to stay alive. After final arguments by the leaders of each party, the Republicans mustered 48 votes, 12 short of the 60 they needed to overcome a procedural hurdle and move the proposed amendment to the floor.

It’s no surprise that it failed. Getting 67 votes (to pass an actual amendment) was never going to happen. But it’s embarrasing for the majority party to put up something that only gets 48 votes.

Republicans originally had expected they would win a majority, if not the 67 votes required for the 100-member body to pass a constitutional amendment. In doing so, they were seeking to force the Democrats’ presumed presidential ticket — Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina — to vote against the amendment. But in the last two days, a number of Republicans have indicated they will not vote for the measure, leaving GOP leaders red-faced over their failure to muster support.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona broke forcefully with President Bush and the Senate GOP leadership Tuesday evening over the issue, taking to the Senate floor to call a constitutional amendment to prohibit the practice unnecessary — and un-Republican. “The constitutional amendment we’re debating today strikes me as antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans,” McCain said. “It usurps from the states a fundamental authority they have always possessed and imposes a federal remedy for a problem that most states do not believe confronts them.” McCain also said the amendment “will not be adopted by Congress this year, nor next year, nor any time soon until a substantial majority of Americans are persuaded that such a consequential action is as vitally important and necessary as the proponents feel it is today.”

A reasonable enough position. Still, it’s bizarre that Frist and Co. let a vote go through knowing they couldn’t muster a majority. I suppose there is some value in re-election races for Senators to be able to say they’d voted “Yes” on the measure. But when it’s only a “procedural vote,” it’s a rather lame argument.

Ron Gunsberger has a possible explanation at Politics1:

Last week — sensing a solid victory in their attempt to kill the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage — Senate Democrats leaders announced they would not fight GOP plans to bring the proposed amendment to a straight up-or-down floor vote on Wednesday. John Kerry and John Edwards even announced they would fly back to vote against it. Bill FristApparently, that wasn’t what GOP leaders were counting on to take place, as they now have GOP Senators who support the amendment filibustering it on the Senate floor in order to block the up-or-down vote. Why? According to the AP, it’s because they now fear that an absolute majority of the Senate will vote against the amendment (including Republican Senators Hagel, McCain, Lugar, Grassley, Campbell, Collins, Warner, Snowe, Chafee, and others). Now, it looks like the leadership will — rather bizarrely — call a vote to invoke cloture (i.e., “force” an end to the fake filibuster they are coordinating) so that they could then claim a mini-victory if 60 Senators voted to hold a vote on the amendment itself. Some Republicans want to hold votes on two versions of the amendment, even though no hearings were even held on one of the versions. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) says the vote this week is essential because same-sex marriage would be “the death knell of our society.” Other GOP Senators want the vote cancelled entirely, feeling they should instead be working on issues relating to the economy and international matters. GOP leaders are reportedly worried they will even fall short of the 60 votes needed for cloture — even though they are pressing amendment opponents to cast a party-line vote on the cloture question to avoid embarrassing President Bush. Regardless of how the vote goes down, everyone agrees the amendment will fall far short of passage. Amendment sponsor Wayne Allard (R-CO) said “I don’t expect it to pass … It’s likely we will have to work on this amendment [in Congress] for several years.” Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) also predicted the amendment would certainly fail, but vowed that it “absolutely” will “be back” again for another vote someday.

As lame as it sounds in theory, it didn’t even work–making it much more lame in practice.


BoiFromTroi has a roundup of blogger and other reactions, including from the apparently semi-unretired Discount Blogger, Michael Demmons. He also links a statement by the Log Cabin Republicans. No word yet from the Mrs. Butterworth Libertarians.

Update (7/15 8:57): Little Miss Attila has taken up the MBL banner.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. legion says:

    Well, McCain not doing what the GOP leadership wants is hardly news, but you’re right about the rest of it – Frist et al going through the motions on an issue they should have known was DOA won’t carry any weight with the social conservatives of the GOP base. The only diagnosis I could make is that Frist (and the GOP leadership) is becoming increasingly out of touch with the rank-and-file Repubs in Congress.

  2. L-Shuffle says:

    Guess Bush won’t be toting McCain as a member of his camp anymore.

  3. McGehee says:

    Why would one vote by McCain cause him to be L-Shuffle’d off the campaign stage? Only a complete idiot would have expected McCain to go along with everything Bush wants, and Bush isn’t an idiot, complete or otherwise.

  4. Attila Girl says:

    That presupposes that Bush really wanted this, and wasn’t just making a token effort to satisfy some on the far end of the party.

  5. Joseph Marshall says:

    Is everyone here really so naive and self-deceived that they cannot see the real point of calling for any vote at all on the issue? Generating a stick big enough to beat your local Democrat with in the campaign ads for the Senate and House races?

    If it really is self-deception, it would explain to me one of the most puzzling things about the White House insistence on pushing the matter in things like the President’s radio message.

    Supposedly, in 2000 they were shy four million Christian Conservative voters who didn’t make it to the polls and they want to correct this problem in the same way you wave a red flag in front of a bull to make it charge.

    But since they have bought into their own constant harping on how the Christian Conservative values are the only true American values, they have clearly forgotten how big a tent any sucessful party has to be.

    If you have any entree into the gay world it is not surprising both how large it is and how many of its members are sufficently successful economically to be inclined toward Republican politics.

    But, under the circumstances, I would be astonished if any gays who have voted Republican in the past do so in 2004. And I would not be astonished at how many MORE will be there at the polls this time.

    Given the actual language of both the President and Amendment proponents, no one in their right mind would swallow the notion that this is only about “marriage”. It is officially driven bashing.

    In a like manner, it now appears that George W. is likely to set a new record for his lack of support among African-Americans. I have heard figures quoted of 1 in 10 or less even considering a vote in his direction.

    And its not as if you see many photo-ops of him worshiping with black Christians, despite the theological closeness of his own denomination and the probable sincerity of his private religous belief.

    Even beyond the President, I doubt sincerely that the memory of the Florida vote and of the intemperate remarks of Trent Lott at Strom Thurmond’s birthday party have faded from the minds of thinking African-Americans. Certainly the Republican Party has not offered them much to replace it with.

    Under the circumstances, I’m not so sure that, objectively, four million new Christian Coalition voters would be that valuable, if they do indeed show up.

  6. McGehee says:

    Is everyone here really so naive and self-deceived that they cannot see the real point of calling for any vote at all on the issue? Generating a stick big enough to beat your local Democrat with in the campaign ads for the Senate and House races?

    Leaving aside the gratuitously sneering tone of this paragraph, I’ve been kind of wondering the same thing myself.