Blasts Gay Marriage Ruling, Plans Hearings
Worth Star Telegram, February 6, 2004
P. O. Box 1870, Fort Worth, TX 76101
By Suzanne Gamboa, Associated Press
WASHINGTON—Republican Sen. John
Cornyn, who as a Texas Supreme Court justice dismissed challenges to the
state’s sodomy law, will play a key role in the GOP’s effort to pass a
constitutional amendment banning gay marriages.
“The time has come for the appropriate committees in
this body to convene hearings to determine how best we can respond to this
startling display of judicial activism that so threatens our fundamental
institutions and our values,” Cornyn, chairman of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, said from the Senate floor Friday.
The Judiciary Committee oversees legislation that could
affect the Constitution.
Conservative groups and lawmakers have been pushing for a
constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriages. Amending the Constitution
requires approval from two-thirds of both houses of Congress and must be
ratified by three-fourths of the states.
Lobbying has stepped up since the Massachusetts ruling
Wednesday that people who are gay are entitled to gay marriages, and civil
unions were not a sufficient substitute. That sets the stage for sanctioned
Some politicians, including President Bush, have been
concerned that American courts might overturn the federal law that defines
marriage as being between a man and a woman. Texas’ senior senator,
Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, has said she believes marriage should be
between a man and a woman and she would support a constitutional amendment if
it is needed to protect states’ rights to prohibit gay marriages.
In 1996, President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage
Act, which denied federal recognition of same-sex marriages and allowed states
to ignore same-sex unions licensed elsewhere.
Cornyn has wanted to ensure that law stays in place and
is possibly strengthened.
Conservative groups fear that gay couples married in
Massachusetts will move to other states and file suits in those states
challenging laws prohibiting gay marriage.
“There’s going to be a lot of work that has to be
done, but having Sen. Cornyn there in the beginning, he’ll be an excellent
person to help others with understanding the issue,” said Kelly Shackelford,
president of the Dallas-based Free Market Foundation, a conservative group.
During his 2002 Senate campaign, Cornyn opposed making
violence prompted by a victims’ sexual orientation a federal crime and
adoption by gay couples.
While serving as a Texas Supreme Court justice, Cornyn
voted to throw out lower-court decisions that declared the state’s sodomy
law unconstitutional. That law was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme
Court last year. Some lawyers believe the court’s ruling opened the door for
Randall Ellis, executive director of the Lesbian/Gay
Rights Lobby of Texas, said the influence Cornyn could have on shaping a
constitutional amendment banning gay marriage is “scary.”
“It’s a very small, vocal group that’s pushing it,
but they seem to be pushing it harder and harder,” Ellis said.
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