• U.S.

A Gay-Marriage Dance

2 minute read
Douglas Waller

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist plans to call a vote the week of July 12 on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The measure is almost certain to fail. Still, Frist wants to force Democrats–most of whom oppose the amendment, as does the party’s presumptive nominee for President, John Kerry–to put their opposition on record in the hope that the issue will hurt them this fall. But some Republican opponents of the amendment are complaining that Frist’s ploy will put them on the spot as well. Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee tells TIME he has begun organizing G.O.P. moderates who oppose the amendment–and even some conservatives who object to tinkering with the Constitution–to “send a message” to Frist that it’s a losing cause. Senate Republican sources say Frist will have trouble mustering a simple majority, much less the two-thirds needed to pass the amendment.

G.O.P. conservatives argue that even a losing vote, besides putting Democrats in an uncomfortable spot, will fire up gay-marriage opponents in more than a dozen states likely to have initiatives on the November ballot to pass anti-gay-marriage amendments. The aim is to get gay-marriage opponents to the polls, says a Senate G.O.P. aide, “and while they’re in the booth, they’ll pull the trigger for Bush and Republicans.” Moderates counter that conservative voters are already motivated and that Republicans should be more worried that pushing a gay-marriage amendment will turn off the more vital swing voters. “We have so many more important issues to grapple with,” says Chafee. “This is just a distraction.” –By Douglas Waller

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