The House voted overwhelmingly Friday to define marriage in
federal law as a legal union of one man and one woman - no matter
what states may say.
The "Defense of Marriage Act" would underline federal refusal
to recognize same-sex marriages, keeping gay couples ineligible for
spousal benefits under Social Security, Medicare or other programs.
The bill was passed, 342-67, after two days of noisy and highly
personal debate. All members of the Missouri and southern Illinois
delegations voted for the measure, except Rep. William L. Clay,
D-Mo., who did not vote.
Although the vote was lopsided, it took place only after a
bitter debate in which the Republican sponsor spoke of "the very
foundation of our society being at risk" while some Democrats
accused the GOP of stirring up a divisive issue to help Bob Dole's
President Bill Clinton will sign the bill if the Senate passes
it, although he, too, believes it is politically motivated, said
Mike McCurry, the White House spokesman.
"I think, in fact, it is gay baiting, pure and simple," McCurry
Rep. Martin Meehan, D-Mass., said, "This will prevent or stop
nothing, but it does effectively divide people in America."
Republican supporters, on the other hand, said the measure was
needed on both moral and legal grounds.
"The flames of hedonism, the flames of narcissism, the flames
of self-centered morality are licking at the very foundations of
our society, the family unit," said Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., the
The federal government traditionally leaves regulation of
marriage to the states, but supporters said the legislation was
needed to head off the possible results of a gay-rights court case
that could lead Hawaii to legalize gay marriage.
If that happens, the Constitution may require other states to
recognize gay marriages performed in Hawaii, they said.
Conservatives said a single panel of judges in Hawaii should not be
allowed to decide whether the whole country accepts same-sex
Under the bill, states would be free to legalize gay marriages
within their own boundaries, but other states would have authority
to refuse to honor them.
"The vote today reflects exactly what the people of this
country feel, and that is, America is not ready to change its
definition of marriage, America is not ready to change the concept
of marriage," Barr said. …