Tuesday, June 20, 2006

My Senator's Response

As everyone (well probably almost everyone) in the 'nacle knows the First Presidency asked LDS members to express their views to their senators about the federal constitutional marriage amendment. I posted my email letters to my senators here. Below, is the email I received this morning in response from Senator Diane Feinstein.

While she did not in accordance with my request, I did appreciate the fact that she took the time, or had someone take the time to make a formal response. I have heard nothing from Senator Boxer's office. Anybody else hear from their senators?

June 20, 2006

Mr. Guy Murray
PO Box
Nipomo, California 93444

Dear Mr. Murray:

Thank you for writing to me about the so-called Marriage
Protection Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment
which would require that marriage in the United States consist only
of the union between a man and a woman. I appreciate you
expressing your thoughts to me.

I have continually opposed this amendment, as well as
other federal attempts to regulate marriage. In my view, enacting
such a measure would overstep the role of Congress by interfering
with the States= constitutional authority to legislate in the area of
family law. Policies that regulate families and marriage have
always been, and I believe should continue to be, a State right and
responsibility.

On June 7, 2006, the Senate voted on a procedural motion
regarding the Marriage Protection Amendment. I voted against the
motion which would have led to the Senate's consideration of the
amendment and I have attached a copy of the statement that I gave
on the Senate floor which further explains my views on this
amendment.

I recognize that people have very strong and distinct
opinions regarding the institution of marriage, and I respect your
views. While we probably will not change each other's minds on
this amendment, I hope we can still have a dialogue and find
common ground on issues where we do agree.

If you should have any further comments or questions,
please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, DC staff at (202)
224-3841.

Statement of Senator Dianne Feinstein
on the Motion to Proceed to the Marriage Protection
Amendment
United States Senate
June 6, 2006

"Mr. President, I rise today to oppose the Marriage
Protection Amendment to the Constitution.

With all the problems in the world today, the Senate is
spending valuable time debating a bill which we know does not
have the votes for cloture, which is divisive, and which, I believe,
does not belong on the national agenda.

The fact of the matter is that all family law has historically
been relegated to the States.

Marriage, divorce, adoption, custody - all aspects of family
law and domestic relations - have been the province of the States.

That's what the Supreme Court has said in case after case -
from In Re Burrus in 1890 to Rose v Rose in 1982.

In that 1982 case, the court affirmed the holding of In Re
Burrus that:

'[t]he whole subject of the domestic relations of
husband and wife, parent and child, belongs to the
laws of the states, and not to the laws of the United
States.'

Similarly, in Sosna v. Illinois (1975) the Supreme Court
wrote:

'Domestic relations [is] an area that has long been
regarded as a virtually exclusive province of the
States.'

And in 1982, then-Associate Justice Rehnquist, dissenting
in Santosky v. Kramer, wrote:

'The area of domestic relations...has been left to the
States from time immemorial, and not without good
reason.'

And just this past November, in a television interview,
Justice Stephen Breyer stated very simply: 'Family law is State
law.'

So it's clear that domestic relations have been the
jurisdiction of States - and that's where they should remain. I
deeply believe that this body should not be involved in putting
amendments in the Constitution dealing with any aspect of
marriage, of divorce, of families, of adoption, of any of those
areas. The States reign supreme.

So why is it when Republicans are all for reducing the
federal government's impact on people's lives - until it comes to
these stinging litmus test issues, whether gay marriage or end of
life - they suddenly want the federal government to intervene?

For the life of me, I don't understand why this keeps
coming before this body. It is extraordinarily difficult to pass a
constitutional amendment. We all know that. Both Houses have to
pass it by 67 votes. Then, over a seven-year period, it goes out the
States, where it has to be ratified by three-quarters of the States.

The last constitutional amendment that went out to be
ratified by the States was the Equal Rights Amendment. A simple
25-word amendment that said:

'Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied
or abridged by the United States or by any state on
account of sex.'

And guess what, they were not able to get the necessary
three-fourths of the States over a seven-year period.

So, I don't believe this constitutional amendment would be
successful, even if passed out of this body.

I haven't seen one passed in the 13 years I have been here.
And it is extraordinarily difficult to get one ratified, as I said.

Family law, indeed, is the purview of the States. So,
there's no need for a constitutional amendment.

This proposed constitutional amendment strikes at the heart
of States' rights in the area of family law, and in doing so, actually
undermines our Constitution.

Moreover, I believe that Americans believe that the States
should deal with same-sex marriage as the States see fit. And so I
do.

And, Americans are especially concerned about amending
this Constitution if it means closing the door on civil unions.

Now, why do I say this? How do I know this? Fifty-three
percent of Americans polled recently would oppose a
constitutional amendment that also bans civil unions and domestic
partnerships, such as we have established in California.

Many legal experts believe that this amendment would do
just that. The language in the second sentence of the amendment is
ambiguous, at best, stating that:

'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.'

Now, some on the other side have argued that the
amendment would still allow for legal unions passed by the States
legislatures, just not those instituted by the courts.

However, when similar amendments were passed in states
like Michigan, Ohio, and Utah, domestic violence laws and health
care plans for couples - both gay and straight - were taken away.

So, we know that it has an effect. So, I really believe that
to put this on the Constitution - if it were to prevail, if it were to be
ratified by three-quarters of the States - it is very likely that all
domestic partnerships and all unions of any civil kind would be
wiped out as well. And I think that doesn't make any sense at all.

States are well able to handle the issue of marriage on their
own - without the heavy-hand of the federal government
intervening in people's private lives.

What is currently happening in the States indicates to me
that they are, in fact, actively engaged on this issue.

In fact, the numbers speak for themselves:

* To date, 45 states have acted to restrict marriage to
only one man and one woman;

* 18 of those have done so by amending their State
constitutions.

So, why are we doing this?

* This year, 7 more states are poised to join them
when they hold statewide votes on constitutional
same-sex marriage bans: Alabama in June, and
Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee,
Virginia and Wisconsin in November.

* In addition, at least 9 other states may take up
similar amendments in the not-so-distant future:
Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana,
Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and
Pennsylvania.

* And in fact, only one State - Massachusetts -
recognizes same-sex marriage. One State, that's it.

So, why all the fuss? Why is the Senate devoting its time to
this issue when one state has taken action?

I say that based on the laws of this land, that that's the
prerogative of that state, or any other state. So there's no need for
us to be considering a federal constitutional amendment,
particularly when we have important global and national problems
to address.

* Deficit -- We've got an enormous deficit in this
country. We don't spend much time on it.

* Iraq -- Things are going from bad to worse -- just this
morning we read about of an "unrelenting" kidnapping
campaign happening in the streets of Baghdad.
Thousands of Iraqi citizens are being snatched from the
streets - 56 just yesterday - all rounded up by gunmen
dressed in Iraqi police uniforms.


* North Korea - has announced that it possesses nuclear
weapons.

* Iran - is trying to become a nuclear power.

* Stem Cell Research -- Passed by the House a year ago,
still not on the Floor of the Senate. So, why, why, why,
are we doing this now when we could be doing stem
cell research? When we could possibly provide the
hope for juvenile diabetics, for Alzheimer's victims, for
cancer victims, for spinal cord severance victims?

* Appropriations -- The Senate has not taken up and
approved any of the 12 appropriations bills that it must
complete by the end of the session and it is already
June. So I can't understand why we're doing this.

* Defense Authorization and Intelligence Authorization --
We've got the Defense Authorization and Intelligence
Authorization bills. These are critical bills at a time
when our nation continues to be fighting in Iraq,
Afghanistan, and the Global War on Terror. And we
have not passed these bills.

* Gas Prices. I was in Los Angeles last week, and it cost
more than $3.50 a gallon to fill up a tank of gas. And
we haven't taken steps to deal with that.

So there are dozens of critical issues including the
mandatory business of this body in two major authorization bill
and 12 major appropriation bill that we haven't addressed. 45
States have taken action.

And yet this body seems pressed to defend the nation, to
amend the Constitution, to provide something which is the purview
of the States and which the States are handling.

To me it makes no sense, other than this is an election year.
It makes no sense other than throwing red meat to a certain
constituency. And it certainly is not what the Constitution of the
United States is all about.

Mr. President, I hope we will vote no on cloture and I hope
we will return to business that is important to the American people.
I do not believe that this issue merits the time of this Senate at this
time.

Thank you and I yield the floor."

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

http://feinstein.senate.gov

Further information about my position on issues of concern to California and the
Nation are available at my website http://feinstein.senate.gov. You can also
receive electronic e-mail updates by subscribing to my e-mail list at
http://feinstein.senate.gov/issue.html.

11 Comments:

Blogger nicolaepadigone said...

I received a response from both Senators Specter and Santorum in PA.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger Tigersue said...

I find it interesting that it is okay for them to put the "family issues" for the states, that is except for abortion, which the federal government completely ignored the states rights.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 2:07:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

nic: Let me guess. . .Specter no, Santorum yes.

tigersue: ah yes . . .but you see, abortion, while a family issue, is also a "constitutional" issue as well--thus elevating it to the national level of legislation.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 2:33:00 PM  
Blogger RoastedTomatoes said...

Guy, I'm glad you got a response on this, at least. Is it too much for me to reiterate the senator's (probably insincere) hope for real dialogue on this issue and others? :)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 5:03:00 PM  
Blogger nicolaepadigone said...

yeah, Santorum was clearly for the amendment in this flowery, wordy reply. Specter was short and talked about how we shouldn't rush to change the constitution. Here is Specter's response:

"Thank you for contacting my office regarding S.J.Res. 1, a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage. The proposed amendment to the United States Constitution would define marriage as only a union between a man and woman. Amending the Constitution is a very serious step, and one we should never take lightly . This is a very difficult issue that requires careful consideration and thought.

Rest assured that I will keep your thoughts on this issue in mind should the Senate consider this or any other similar legislation. Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office or visit my website at www.specter.senate.gov . Thank you again for writing .

Sincerely,

Arlen Specter"

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 6:14:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

RT: Yes, I was pleased as well to see a response--one that was even crafted at least to reflect the same issue on which I had contacted the Senator. Senator Feinstein has always been one of California's best Senators (in my view). It was not too surprising that I have not yet heard anything from Senator Boxer--but perhaps something later?

No--its not too much to hope for continued dialogue. Dialogue is almost always a good thing.

Thanks for stopping by.

Nic: I thought so!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006 4:45:00 AM  
Blogger Sherpa said...

I wonder how many days it took Sen. Feinstein's LC to get that letter approved..

;)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006 8:49:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Robison said...

Bill Frist gave me a very prompt response with all his talking points on the subject. He clearly anticipated and prepped responses on that issue; I guess the Majority Leader has to expect a deluge of mail on any given topic. I don't think Lamar Alexander's office got back to me, however.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Hi Ruby,

You mean you don't think Diane wrote that all herself? ;-)

Peter: Yeah I can just imagine Sen. Frist's talking points!

Thursday, June 22, 2006 9:16:00 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

The thing that irritated me the most was the point they missed, sure, wars, gas prices, blah, blah, blah are important, but if you ask folks, what is most important to them, I'm betting that overwhelmingly they will state their families. To me, this is about family, families now, families in the future. I'm a lot more concerned about the world my kids will survive than the price of a gallon of gas, now down to $3.09, Senator Feinstein. Let's see Gas or Family, which is most important to you, and which deserves your time and support? I do listen to Senator Feinstein, don't usually agree, but do listen, Senator Boxer is a joke.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006 2:54:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Brian,

Well, I haven't had any response from Senator Boxer. It's like I just don't exist. If I were a Senator I would have at least an automated response to any email thanking my constituent for emailing me on an issue.

I never believed this amendment would go anywhere. But, like you I strongly believe this is about families, now, and particularly in the future. I agreed to write in support of the amendment because the First Presidency asked that I do so. Otherwise, I seriously doubt I would have written.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006 8:30:00 PM  

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