Specter to Feingold: 'Good Riddance'

Associated Press
Friday, May 19, 2006

A Senate committee approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage yesterday, after a shouting match that ended when one Democrat strode out and the Republican chairman bid him "good riddance."

"I don't need to be lectured by you. You are no more a protector of the Constitution than am I," Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) shouted after Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) declared his opposition to the amendment, his affinity for the Constitution and his intention to leave the meeting.

"If you want to leave, good riddance," Specter finished.

"I've enjoyed your lecture, too, Mr. Chairman," replied Feingold, who is considering a run for president in 2008. "See ya."

Amid increasing partisan tension over President Bush's judicial nominees and domestic wiretapping, the panel voted 10 to 8 along party lines to send the constitutional amendment -- which would prohibit states from recognizing same-sex marriages -- to the Senate, where it stands little chance.

Democrats complained that bringing up the amendment is a political move designed to appeal to the GOP's conservative base in a midterm-election year.

Among Feingold's objections was Specter's decision to hold the vote in the President's Room off the Senate floor, where access by the general public is restricted, instead of in the panel's usual meeting room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Specter later said he would have been willing to hold the session in the usual room had he thought doing so would change votes.

Not all who voted "yes" support the amendment. Specter said he is "totally opposed" to it but believes it deserves a Senate debate.

"Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman," reads the measure, which would require approval by two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the states to take effect.

"Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman," it says.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has scheduled a vote the week of June 5.

The issue has ignited a cultural and political debate over what constitutes marriage and the legal rights of same-sex partners.

This week, Georgia announced it will appeal a judge's ruling that struck down its voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) said he will call a special legislative session if the state Supreme Court does not rule soon on the issue.

The Georgia ban was approved by 76 percent of the state's voters in November 2004. On Tuesday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Constance C. Russell ruled the measure violated the Georgia constitution's single-subject rules for ballot questions.

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