The Blog

Today's Same Sex Marriage Vote: The Inside Story

To suggest the momentum is on their side is to ignore the results of today's vote and the reality that if the vote was on the actual amendment, they would have lost even bigger.
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49 - 48. The President and Bill Frist once again couldn't get a majority of the United States Senate to vote for a constitutional amendment defining marriage to exclude gay and lesbian relationships.

The fact is that the leadership wrongly thought they'd get 52 votes today, which would have been an increase from the last vote on this before the 2004 election. Sens Chris Dodd and Jay Rockefeller and Chuck Hagel weren't in Washington today so we would have had at least a 50-50 vote. Bad counting Mr. Frist.

Judd Gregg and Arlen Specter changed their votes from their 2004 positions.

The vote today, as with last time, was on a procedural motion to proceed to the debate on the underlying amendment - which means, they voted on whether or not to vote on the issue. These types of procedural votes are usually ones that Senators vote with their leadership on - Dems with Reid and Repubs with Frist. In 2004 it was clear that opponents of the proposed amendment had more Republican votes against the actual amendment than we did on the procedural vote where members felt obligagted to their leadership. So we tried to manuver a vote on the substance. Specter and Gregg were two of those who would have been with us then. There are at least three other Republican Senators who would have also switched if the vote was on the actual bill rather than a "leadership" vote. We also might have lost a scared Democrat, maybe two at most. Once Frist and Santorum realized they'd lose more on the substance vote, they made sure the vote was on procedure.

In any event, this year the opponents of the Federal Marriage Amendment, did a great job making sure that people understood that the procedural vote would be considered a vote on the underlying amendent. In truth they were helped by the right wing who also said that this vote would "count".

Kudos to Sen. John Sununu for his principled stand in 2004 voting with those who stood against this federal intrusion in our lives and kudos to Judd Gregg for following in his footsteps again today.

Arlen Specter, the complicated and frustrating Chairman of the Judiciary Committee who lets homophobic and sexist judges sail through the Senate, today perhaps finally listened to his heart - and his family.

What a great vote. Congrats to the great effort led by the Human Rights Campaign and the huge coalition of progressive organizations including the ACLU, PFAW, Log Cabin Repubs, Move on, NGLTF and fair minded religious and civic leaders and all who engaged and made this result possible.

One final thought:

How pathetic that President Bush and the White House let themselves use what is surely the most dwindled of political capital be used to bring this proposal to the Senate. And that they will continue to encourage a push in the House in the next two months.

The right wing and the President just looks weaker when they lose these big votes twice in a row. To suggest the momentum is on their side is to ignore the results of today's vote and the reality that if the vote was on the actual amendment, they would have lost even bigger.

Rather than helping shore up his base, the President demonstrated today, one more time, just how weak he is and how out of step his priorities are with those of the American people.