The Marriage Amendment Fails… For Now

Deal W. Hudson

As you probably already heard, an initial cloture vote – to end debate on the bill and send the amendment to a final up-or-down vote – was held on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the motion failed by a 48-50 margin.

It’s a serious setback to the FMA’s progress, to be sure, but not a death blow. We’ll just have to keep plugging away and redouble our efforts to support the bill in the future.

And as far as support for the bill goes, I want to commend the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). I had my doubts, but they did prove their commitment to this issue in these crucial past weeks. USCCB president Bishop Wilton Gregory published a personal letter to his fellow bishops, urging them to support the amendment and encourage their senators to do likewise, and the USCCB itself issued a statement declaring their support of the FMA. Furthermore, USCCB general secretary Monsignor William Fay and the Office of Government Liaison’s director Frank Monahan did their part by attending the press conference of Matt Daniels, the president of the Alliance for Marriage and sponsor of the FMA, showing that the USCCB is willing to give visible support to the amendment along with its written support.

While it didn’t end up changing anything, we can’t blame the bishops’ conference. After all, who is it who votes emphatically pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage Catholic politicians into office if not the Catholic voting public? Until we stop sending these men and women to Congress, we can’t complain when they don’t vote in line with Church teaching. And we certainly can’t expect the bishops to come in and single-handedly clean up our mess.

Look, I criticize the bishops conference when it fails to fully uphold the faith. But we also have to be fair. The fact is, they did their part for the FMA, and we need to acknowledge that.

And now for the voter breakdown.

Last time I told you that there were 14 Catholic senators against the FMA, 5 in favor, and 5 undecideds. Fortunately, four of those undecided Catholic senators did the right thing in the end and voted “yes” to the cloture vote on the amendment. Only John Sununu, a Republican from New Hampshire, went the other way and voted “no.” That’s a big disappointment.

(By the way, the most famous Catholic of the bunch, John Kerry, didn’t vote. Big surprise.)

Some of the names on the opposition list are not surprising – Ted Kennedy, Barbara Mikulski, and Tom Daschle, to name a few of the usual suspects. A couple of the names, though, are kind of funny. Dick Durbin of Illinois, for example, who created the infamous Catholic senator “scorecard” that ranked him the second most Catholic senator on the Hill. Who would have guessed that the most Catholic senators in Washington are all ignoring the bishops conference and casting votes in favor of gay marriage?

Anyway, here are the rest of the senators who voted against cloture:

Joseph Biden (D-DE)
John Breaux (D-LA)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Susan Collins (R-ME)
Christopher Dodd (D-CT)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
John Reed (D-RI)

As you can see, there’s still a lot of work to be done, and much will depend on our individual efforts.

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