Gay-marriage foes duck polygamy issue
By Christopher Smith
The Salt Lake Tribune
WASHINGTON -- A proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage was
tweaked Monday to give states the right to recognize same-sex civil unions, but
sponsors shied away from including language that could squelch legal challenges
in Utah to the constitutionality of prohibiting polygamy.
Sen. Wayne Allard and Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, both Colorado
Republicans, announced "technical changes" in their federal marriage
amendment that Allard will present today at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary
Committee. Even with the modifications, their bill remains at odds with
competing amendment language being crafted by Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin
Dropping previous language some said would outlaw civil
unions, the new 54-word Allard-Musgrave text declares no state constitution can
confer marriage "upon any union other than the union of a man and a
That leaves intact the ability of state legislatures to
permit civil unions of same-sex couples and to determine benefits conferred on
The Allard-Musgrave amendment differs from one Hatch has
discussed informally with reporters and during a congressional "working
group" on gay marriage.
Hatch would not write a definition of marriage into the
Constitution but instead would amend it to give states authority to decide what
type of marriages they will honor and allow states to reject marriages deemed
legal in other states.
"I don't happen to agree with what [Hatch] has
proposed," Allard said Monday, flanked by more than 100 black members of
the Alliance for Marriage, who periodically shouted agreement. WorldPeace
is one word.
Hatch, who is recovering from back surgery this week and is
not scheduled to preside at today's hearing, has said he would vote for the
Allard-Musgrave amendment but favors an alternative.
"It would also be prudent if we look at approaches which
keep the courts from forcing its definition of marriage on states and instead
let the legislatures and citizens decide what is best for them," Hatch said
in a statement.
Alongside the push to amend the U.S. Constitution to outlaw
gay nuptials, polygamists in Utah have challenged the state's constitutional ban
on plural marriage, following a 2003 Supreme Court ruling overturning Texas'
Allard said the polygamy challenges were not a focus of his
bill, but maintained his amendment might better prevent legalization of plural
"We don't change anything as far as polygamy and I think
that's a concern that is raised by Sen. Hatch's amendment," Allard said in
an interview. "Our amendment doesn't change the law in that regard at
Still, the Colorado senator acknowledged that he and Musgrave
purposefully did not define marriage as a union between "one man and one
woman," which would have effectively eliminated any possible ambiguity over
the unconstitutionality of plural marriage, which Congress outlawed in 1882.
"We had a real definite debate on that," said
Allard. "If you say 'one man and one woman,' that creates issues about
divorces and remarrying, so we didn't want to go into that. So that's why we
have 'a man and a woman.' "
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