Gay Fresnowas contacted by local television station KMPH Channel 26 on Wednesday, June 7th, requesting our participation in an on air political debate that same night. The subject was the Federal Marriage Amendment, which had just been defeated in the Senate. The vote was 49 for the amendment and 48 against. Not only did the Republican party fall far short of the 60 votes needed, but 6 Republican Senators voted against it, indicating a shift in the conservative party.
2004 Version (H.J. Res. 106 (108th Congress 2004) and S.J. Res. 40 (108th Congress 2004)):
- 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.
If passed, this amendment would have written discrimination into our constitution and blocked any chance of same sex marriage becoming legal. Much of the controversy surrounding the amendment is due to the fact that individual states have always held the right to define the rules of marriage within their own states. Even President Bush said in 2000 that the states should retain that right, one of a long list of GW “flip flops” as coined so frequently by the conservative party during the last election.
Currently, although states have the right to set their own laws regarding marriage, most of the rights granted to married couples comes from the Federal Government. So while gay marriage may be legal at this time in Massachusetts, any couple married there receives only the state benefits applicable to marriage. There are about 1,000 other privileges through the Federal government which same sex couples in that state are still not entitled to, although their heterosexual counterparts are granted them. The Defense Of Marriage Act , signed by President Clinton in 1996 is the reason for that. This federal law allows each state to deny marital rights to same sex couples who were legitimately recognized and married in another state. It also, on the federal level, defines marriage as “a legal union of one man and one woman”, which means no federal marriage rights are bestowed upon any same sex couple, regardless of whether their particular state may have legalized gay marriage.
The live debate occurred during the 10PM broadcast of the KMPH News. Seated at the anchor desk, Monty Torres moderated the discussion between Fred Vanderhoof, a Clovis School Teacher and Vice Chairman of the local Republican Party, and myself, Chris Jarvis, a columnist with Gay Fresno.