June 30: The Meaning of Marriage Debate

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This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, June 30, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: I very much feel that marriage is a sacrament and that sacrament should extend, and can extend to that legal entity of a union between what is traditionally in our western values been defined as between a man and a woman. So I would support the amendment.


BRIT HUME, HOST: The amendment of which Senator Frist (search) is called the Federal Marriage Amendment (search), it is a constitutional amendment now before Congress, which would declare that marriage in America is the union of a man and a woman. Its proponents believe it may be the only way to prevent the courts from soon recognizing a new right of homosexual marriage, something they strongly oppose. The amendment is a product of a group called the Alliance For Marriage, whose president; Matt Daniels joins me here now.

Mr. Daniels, welcome.


HUME: All right. What does exactly does this amendment say?

DANIELS: The amendment says two things. Marriage in the United States is between a man and a woman and let the people of the states Democratically decide who gets the benefits of marriage. It is designed to take the courts out of the business of deciding these questions for the people...

HUME: I think I have the correct language. Correct me if it's wrong in some respects here. But it is a House bill, right? It's in the form of a bill before the House.

DANIELS: Correct.

HUME: That's why it's called H.J. Res. 56.

"Marriage in the United States," it says, "shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither the Constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

At a glance, some people might say, well, you're not only outlawing gay marriage, you're outlawing same-sex union the kind that has been approved in the state of Vermont. Correct or incorrect?

DANIELS: Incorrect. Actually, the whole thrust of this amendment is to protect marriage of a man and woman and allow the state legislatures to decide everything else, whether it's benefits, domestic partners, civil unions, we leave that to the states.

HUME: The Supreme Court (search) in its pronouncements to date have seemed to stop well short of anything that would lead automatically to the declaration of a right of marriage among gays. But you're worried about this coming about nonetheless. How?

DANIELS: Well, we've had a litigation strategy in the courts, Brit, for about 10 years now here in this country. We've seen in it in play like Alaska, Hawaii...

HUME: You say "we," who do you mean?

DANIELS: The United States has seen a strategy in the courts to try to strike down our marriage laws through lawsuits filed by activists. The latest one is pending in Massachusetts. It will be decided this summer. And most experts expect that this suit will begin a process of a challenge to all of our state and federal marriage laws around the country.

HUME: How so?

DANIELS: Well, once marriage is destroyed in one state...

HUME: Now, wait a minute. When you say marriage is destroyed, what do you expect the Massachusetts Supreme Court exactly to do?

DANIELS: The Massachusetts Supreme Court is likely to strike down the marriage laws of Massachusetts, declaring them unconstitutional under the state constitution.

HUME: And these marriage laws specify a man and a woman?

DANIELS: Correct. Right.

HUME: This would make gay rights a right within the state of Massachusetts. Gay marriage a right within the state of Massachusetts, presumably, correct?

DANIELS: Correct. The historic definition of marriage would be invalidated in favor of the claims of activist groups who want to redefine marriage.

HUME: Now, that takes care of Massachusetts. What about the other states?

DANIELS: Well, it's always been a one-two punch. The thrust here, Brit, and this has been coming for about two 10 years, is to first achieve that at the state level, the situation we just discussed, and then export it through the courts with false constitutional arguments or claims under the -- the federal Constitution that this needs to be forced on every state in the nation. And that's probably coming this summer.

HUME: When you say forced on every state in the nation...

DANIELS: Through lawsuits.

HUME: I know. But if Massachusetts did it, that would apply to Massachusetts. That would presumably imply that you can go to Massachusetts and live together as man and wife in Massachusetts. Would that mean you can live together as, not man and wife, but man and spouse or woman and spouse in any other state?

DANIELS: Yes. What you're getting at is something called the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution. And the gain here has always been to use that provision of the federal Constitution to mandate the result in Massachusetts be applied to every other state in the nation.

HUME: Would that mean that you can get married in any other state or simply that marriage in Massachusetts...

DANIELS: It would be portable. Would be portable.

HUME: So, you got married in Massachusetts, you would be recognized as -- your marriage would be recognized everywhere else.

DANIELS: Correct.

HUME: It wouldn't mean you can get married anywhere else.

DANIELS: Well, that would begin a process in the courts, which inevitably leads to the legal status of being struck down in other states.

HUME: Now, there is something called the Defensive Marriage Act that I recall President Clinton signing into law at a very, late hour about seven years ago, that specified that were this to come about, as I recall, that no other state could be forced to accept it. Why would that the not interfere with this process you described?

DANIELS: Well, legal experts on both sides think it's likely the federal Defensive Marriage Act will not stand constitutional scrutiny. That the Supreme Court will invoke the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution, to trump the federal Defensive Marriage Act. And we hope that isn't the case and it doesn't happen, but it is likely to.

HUME: All right. So, you're down to your belief then is the only way to keep this from coming about is to have a constitutional amendment. Now, the history of these things is that even if they get out of Washington that they tend to stall in the states that don't happen. Why are you -- where are you most concerned? Do you think it will pass Congress?

DANIELS: I'm most concerned about the Beltway. Actually, I think our amendment will reverse the typical paradigm. You're exactly correct. Typically they'll make it out of the Beltway, they'll wither in the states. This is written to be so friendly to the authority of the states over benefit, civil unions, domestic partners, et cetera. It simply protects marriage as a union between man and woman and leaves everything else to the states that I think it will fly through the states.

Thirty-seven states already have laws that have been passed to try to protect marriage. That's one state short of a ratification vote. The battle will be the Senate.

HUME: And Frist is, I assume, you think that's a big moment.

DANIELS: That's why his comments are so significant.

HUME: All right. Matt Daniels, nice to have you. Thanks for coming, hope you'll come back.

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