In a little noticed development, Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) filed an amendment with the Senate clerk March 11 that would prohibit D.C. from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the city allows voters to decide the issue through a referendum or initiative.
But Bennett did not formally introduce the amendment before Senate Democrats and Republicans agreed by unanimous consent to an approved list of amendments for a Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill — the measure to which Bennett intended to attach his amendment.
The approved list does not include his amendment, preventing him from bringing it up at this time.
Bennett’s office did not return calls seeking to determine why he didn’t offer the amendment before the list restricting new amendments was approved. It could not be immediately determined whether Bennett’s GOP colleagues persuaded him to stop moving ahead with the amendment or whether he made the decision on his own.
“Amendments are often filed and not offered,” said Max Gleischman, national press secretary for Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), the Senate’s majority whip.
“So I’m not sure why it wasn’t offered,” Gleischman said. “But it was not. And so therefore we’ve locked in, through a consent agreement, a finite list of amendments. And that’s not one of the ones on the list.”
Bennett’s proposed amendment, which was published in the March 11 Congressional Record, is identical to a free-standing bill that he and seven other Republicans introduced Feb 2. The bill’s purpose is “to protect the democratic process and the right of the people of the District of Columbia to define marriage.”
According to the Congressional Record, Sens. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) joined Bennett in filing the amendment as an attachment to the FAA authorization bill, which is being considered on the Senate floor.
The authorization measure is being pushed by Senate Democratic leaders and is considered essential for continued operation of U.S. aviation related programs, including the nation’s air traffic control system.
Both the amendment and Bennett’s free-standing bill say, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, including the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, the government of the District of Columbia shall not issue a marriage license to any couple of the same sex until the people of the District of Columbia have the opportunity to hold a referendum or initiative on the question of whether the District of Columbia should issue same-sex marriage license.”
Paul Strauss, who lobbies the U.S. Senate as an informal shadow senator on D.C. related issues, said unconfirmed reports that Bennett was planning to introduce an amendment to block the city’s same-sex marriage law surfaced last week on Capitol Hill.
“It could potentially force an up or down vote on gay marriage,” Strauss said. “This is certainly something that Democrats and at least some Republicans want to avoid.”