Last edited: April 01, 2004

Cornyn Blasts Gay Marriage Ruling, Plans Hearings

Fort Worth Star Telegram, February 6, 2004
P. O. Box 1870, Fort Worth, TX 76101
Fax: 817-390-7789

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 same-sex weddings.

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 same-sex marriages.

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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