The Constitution of the United States of America,
Amendment XIV,
Section 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Those who believe in the equal protections doctrine are pleased by the news that the United States Senate has again rejected efforts to exclude gay persons from equal protection of the laws.

By a vote of 49 to 48, the effort to end debate on the Marriage Protection Amendment failed and the MPA died for another year. To close debate, 60 votes are required and to pass the MPA the amendment would need the support of 67 Senators, after which it would need an affirmative vote of 2/3 of the House of Representatives and ratification by 3/4 of the state legislatures.

In 2004 the Federal Marriage Amendment (as it was then called) was unable to reach cloture by a vote of 48 to 50. Because today’s vote had one more “yes” votes than in 2004, some anti-gay activists are claiming progress. However, a closer analysis shows exactly that their cheers may be hollow. A better understanding of the votes has to take into consideration the make-up of the Senate.

In 2004, there were 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and 1 Independent. At that time, six Republicans voted “no” and 3 Democrats voted “yes”. Since that vote, Republicans have picked up four additional seats in the Senate.

One of the “no” Republicans was replaced by a Democrat and one of the “yes” Democrats was replaced by a Republican. Assuming that all votes remained the same and all freshmen Senators voted according to party, the anti-gay activists should have been able to muster 52 favorable votes.

However, although all freshmen Senators voted with their party, some senior Senators changed their votes and these changes did not fare well for discrimination. The changed votes were:

Dodd (D-CT) – from Nay to Not Voting
Kerry (D-MA) – from Not Voting to Nay
Rockefeller (D-WV) – from Nay to Not Voting
Hagel (R-NE) – from Yea to Not Voting
Gregg (R-NH) – from Yea to Nay
Specter (R-PA) – from Yea to Nay

The seven Republicans opposing federally imposed discrimination are: McCain (R-AZ), Collins (R-ME), Snowe (R-ME), Gregg (R-NH), Sununu (R-NH), Specter (R-PA), and Chafee (R-RI). Two Democrats who favored the discrimination are: Nelson (D-NE) and Byrd (D-WV).

It is difficult to make a determination as to what factors went into the decision for a Senator to change his position on such a high profile and controversial vote. However, we do know that Alan Chambers, Randy Thomas, and many other ex-gay ministers joined the anti-gay activists in Washington to rail against the lives of gay people.

Perhaps their rhetoric was so offensive that certain Senators came to be turned off by their message of intolerance and discrimination. To the extent that they furthered the cause of equality for all, we thank them.

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