Congressional Record entry 6 of 55

THE DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT (Senate - September 09, 1996)

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Mr. HELMS. Mr. President, during my years in the Senate I have been privileged on many occasions to work with a substantial number of ministers whose Washington churches today are referred to as `African-American.'

These fine ministers have almost unanimously supported efforts by myself and Joe Gibbs and others to restore school prayer to the Nation's classrooms. They are, in the main, opposed to abortion. In fact, I do not recall even one of these ministers ever describing himself or herself as `pro-choice.' But that perhaps is neither here nor there in terms of what I am here this evening to speak about.

The day before the Senate adjourned for the August recess, I ran into one of these fine ministers over in the Russell Building. His church is Baptist. He has a booming, cheerful voice. And when I heard that voice, I knew who it was. He was saying, `Are you going home tomorrow?' And I told him I thought I was since the Senate probably would recess for the month of August.

I asked him, Mr. President, if he had a message for the folks back home. And he said, `I sure do. Tell them that God created Adam and Eve--not Adam and Steve.'

Some may chuckle at this good-natured minister's humor. But he meant exactly what he was saying. In fact, it was a sort of sermonette. The truth is, he was hitting the nail on the head, if you want to use that cliche, or telling it like it is. However one may choose to describe this minister's getting down to the nitty-gritty, it was no mere cliche, Mr. President. There could not have been, as a matter of fact, a better way to begin this debate in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which is H.R. 3396. The formal debate will begin tomorrow morning in this Chamber, the U.S. Senate.

Now then, let there be no mistake about it, this bill in no way, to any degree, is the kind of legislation which homosexual and lesbian leaders have disdainfully described as a, to use their words, `hate-driven bill.'

In fact, it is precisely the critics of H.R. 3396 who are demanding that homosexuality be considered as just another lifestyle--these are the people who seek to force their agenda upon the vast majority of Americans who reject the homosexual lifestyle.

Indeed, Mr. President, the pending bill--the Defense of Marriage Act--will safeguard the sacred institutions of marriage and the family from those who seek to destroy them and who are willing to tear apart America's moral fabric in the process.

Isn't it disheartening, Mr. President, that Congress must clarify the traditional definition of marriage? But inch by inch, little by little, the homosexual lobby has chipped away at the moral stamina of some of America's courts and some legislators, in order to create the shaky ground that exists today that prompts this legislation being the subject of debate tomorrow morning in the U.S. Senate.

Just think, the prospect of a sovereign State's being compelled to recognize same-sex marriages sanctioned in another State is incredibly stark. If Hawaii's supreme court legalizes same-sex marriages in Hawaii, does the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution compel the other 49 States to recognize the new marriage law within their jurisdictions? I say no.

Such a suggestion, Mr. President, is a cockeyed interpretation of the Constitution; and this is one of so many times that I have wished the late, great Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr., were here to cut it down to size. Homosexuals and lesbians boast that they are close to realizing their goal--legitimizing their behavior.

Mr. President, Bill Bennett has championed the cause of preserving America's culture; he contends that we are already reaping the consequences of the devaluation of marriage. And he warns that `it is exceedingly imprudent to conduct a radical, untested, and inherently flawed social experiment on an institution that is the keystone and the arch of civilization.'

Bill Bennett is everlastingly right, and I believe the American people in the majority understand that the Defense of Marriage Act is vitally important. It will establish a simple, clear Federal definition of marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman, and it will exempt sovereign States from being compelled by a half-baked interpretation of the U.S. Constitution to recognize same-sex marriages wrongfully legalized in another State.

If the Senate, tomorrow, makes the mistake of approving the Employment Nondiscrimination Act proposed by the Senator from Massachusetts, it will pave the way for liberal judges to threaten the business policies of countless American employers, and, in the long run, put in question the legality of the Defense of Marriage Act. The homosexual lobby knows this and that is why there is such a clamor favoring adoption of the Kennedy bill.

Mr. President, at the heart of this debate is the moral and spiritual survival of this Nation. Alexis de Tocqueville said a century and a half ago that America had grown great because America was good. Mr. de Tocqueville also warned that if America made the mistake of ceasing to be good, America would cease to be great.

So, we must confront the question posed long ago: `Quo Vadis, America?'

The Senate is about to answer that question. We will decide whither goeth America. It is solely up to us.

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