Leahy and Jeffords vote against constitutional amendment

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(Host) Both of Vermont’s U.S. senators voted against a constitutional amendment today that would have banned same-sex marriages.

Senator Patrick Leahy says the fact that Republican leaders scheduled the vote shows that they really don’t want to address the most critical issues facing the country.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) After three days of debate, backers of the constitutional amendment failed to get enough support to bring the issue to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

Supporters needed 60 votes. They got 49. This is actually one vote less than they received in 2004 when the issue last came before the Senate.

Senator Patrick Leahy voted against the proposal because he says the issue should be decided by individual states and because he thinks it’s inappropriate to amend the Constitution for this purpose.

(Leahy) “We amend our Constitution so rarely. It’s one of the strengths of our Constitution. But we start putting in every issue that comes up into our Constitution, after awhile our Constitution would be meaningless. Of course I would not want to amend the Constitution on this issue leave it up to the states, the states can easily decide if marriage is between a man and a woman. States have the right to do that today.”

(Kinzel) Leahy says there’s no doubt in his mind that Republican leaders brought the issue up for purely political reasons:

(Leahy) “The only reason this constitutional amendment is brought up right now is to use it as a campaign tool this fall. If we didn’t have elections this fall they wouldn’t being wasting time on it. This is really being done because they don’t want to have to talk about the war in Iraq, or the price of gasoline or the deficit or the screw ups at the Veterans Administration or the screw ups with FEMA and Katrina.”

(Kinzel) Senator Jim Jeffords also voted against the proposed amendment.

(Jeffords) “I just don’t think this is something that the federal government ought to get involved in. I think it’s up to the states to handle these issues and so that’s the way I feel about it.”

(Kinzel) Despite the loss in the Senate, House Republican leaders have vowed to bring the issue up in their chamber later this month.

Congressman Bernie Sanders says he’ll vote against the proposal when it comes before the House.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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