Mr. President, I rise to support S.J. Res. 1, the Marriage Protection Act, because any change to an institution as fundamental to our society as marriage should be made by the people, not unelected judges. The constitutional amendment process, being the closest process we have to a national referendum, is the best way for the people to speak on this important issue.
By supporting this amendment, I in no way intend to question or slight the value and dignity of any American. Nor, in my judgment, do my colleagues who join me in supporting this amendment. Anyone who claims otherwise is wrong. The question that faces this Senate is a question of means--when something as profound as changing the institution of marriage arises, how should it be addressed?
I submit that a handful of judges in a few States are not empowered and should not be permitted to make this decision for the entire country. But if we do not pass the Marriage Protection Act, that is precisely what may happen.
Today, nine States face lawsuits challenging their traditional marriage laws. State supreme courts in New Jersey, Washington, and New York could decide same-sex marriage cases as early as this year. In California, Maryland, New York and Washington, State trial courts have already struck down marriage laws and found a right to same-sex marriage in their States' constitutions. Those decisions are awaiting appeal.
Same-sex marriage advocates also have made Federal constitutional claims. In Nebraska, a Federal district court struck down that State's popularly enacted State constitutional amendment protecting traditional marriage, and the case is on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act--DOMA--are also pending in federal district courts in Oklahoma and Washington, and before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
These attempts to redefine marriage through the courts have not gone away since this body last voted on a constitutional amendment to protect marriage in 2004. Since then, state courts in Washington, New York, California, Maryland, and Oregon have found traditional marriage laws unconstitutional.
Every time they have been given the opportunity, the American people have strongly supported a traditional definition of marriage--the union of a man and a woman. Forty-five States currently have statutory protection for that very definition of marriage--all but Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Rhode Island. Only four States had such statutory protection 12 years ago. The American people have made their wishes known to their State legislators: they are clearly and overwhelmingly for protecting marriage as we have always known it.
I believe that traditional marriage, the union between a man and a woman, is the cornerstone of our society and the best possible foundation for a family. I believe that traditional marriage, the union between a man and a woman, should be the only form of marriage recognized by law. And I believe most Americans agree with me. But if nothing else, they deserve a chance to be heard.