May 19, 2016 4:42 AM GMT
Mr. President, I have listened with great interest to the debate over the last several days. I believe there are many sincere positions being advocated on this floor on really all sides of this issue, because there are many sides. This is an incredibly important and quite solemn responsibility that we have before us.
S.J. Res. 40, this joint resolution, proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage. So maybe even more than the usual debate, this calls for each of us to be engaged, to be accurate, and to be thoughtful about the positions we take with respect to this proposed amendment.
Now, a number of my colleagues have come to the floor to speak about the solemn responsibility that we hold in our hands with respect to amending our Constitution. I am in agreement that the Constitution is a living and working, extraordinary human accomplishment that protects our citizens, grants us the rights that make us free, and we in this body took an oath; we swore to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States.
So to consider altering this document, one of the greatest documents in the history of humanity, is a responsibility no Member can or should enter into lightly, for what we do here will not only affect our fellow citizens in the year 2004, but it will affect every generation of Americans to come.
As Henry Clay once observed:
The Constitution of the United States was made not merely for the generation that then existed, but for posterity--unlimited, undefined, endless, perpetual posterity.
So we do owe an obligation to those we represent today and to future generations as we embark upon this very solemn undertaking. We should not amend the Constitution to decide any issue that can and will be resolved by less drastic means. We should not amend the Constitution to federalize an issue that has been the province of the States since our founding--in fact, as Senator Kennedy reminded us, even before our founding as a nation.
I believe marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman. I have had occasion in my life to defend marriage, to stand up for marriage, to believe in the hard work and challenge of marriage. So I take umbrage at anyone who might suggest that those of us who worry about amending the Constitution are less committed to the sanctity of marriage, or to the fundamental bedrock principle that exists between a man and a woman, going back into the midst of history as one of the foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization, and that its primary, principal role during those millennia has been the raising and socializing of children for the society into which they become adults.
Now, if we were really concerned about marriage and the fact that so many marriages today end in divorce, and so many children are then put into the incredibly difficult position of having to live with the consequences of divorce, perhaps 20, 30 years ago we should have been debating an amendment to the Federal Constitution to make divorce really, really hard, to take it out of the States' hands and say that we will not liberalize divorce, we will not move toward no-fault divorce, and we will
make it as difficult as possible because we fear the consequences of liberalizing divorce laws.
If one looks at the consequences of the numbers of divorces, the breakup of the traditional family, you could make an argument for that. If we were concerned about marriage, why were we not concerned about marriage when marriage was under pressure over the last decades because of changing roles, because of changing decisions, because of the laws in the States that were making it easier for people--husbands, wives, mothers, and fathers--to get divorced?
We searched, and I don't see anyone in the history of the Senate or the House who put forward an amendment to try to stop the increasing number of divorces in order to stem the problem and the difficulties that clearly have been visited upon adults certainly but principally children because of the ease of divorce in this society over the last decade. We didn't do that.
We could stand on this floor for hours talking about the importance of marriage, the significance of the role of marriage in not only bringing children into the world but enabling them to be successful citizens in the world. How many of us have struggled for years to deal with the consequences of illegitimacy, of out-of-wedlock births, of divorce, of the kinds of anomie and disassociation that too many children experienced because of that.