A group of conservative House Republicans on Tuesday introduced a resolution in Congress to condemn the recent federal court decision overturning Proposition 8 in California.
The introduction of the non-binding measure is one of the most prominent moves against the ruling from Republicans, whose response has largely been muted, or in some cases supportive of the decision.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is sponsoring the resolution, H. Res. 1607. The measure is pending before the House Judiciary Committee.
The resolution offers findings faulting U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision for engaging in improper conduct during his consideration of the case. It says Walker “failed to conduct himself in an impartial manner” and “attempted to illegally broadcast the trial in disregard of the harassment such broadcast would invite on witnesses supporting Proposition 8.”
The resolution concludes that the sense of the U.S. House is that:
• Walker “failed to conduct himself in an impartial manner before striking down California’s popularly enacted Proposition 8 and thereby redefined traditional marriage to include same-sex relationships;”
• and Walker’s decision to overturn “California’s popularly enacted Proposition 8 is wrong.”
In a statement, Smith emphasized the importance of the resolution as a means to speak out against the decision, because “when it comes to judicial activism, it doesn’t get much worse.”
“The judge showed bias,” Smith said. “In his ruling, he imposed his personal views, contrary to the wishes of the majority of voters in the state.”
Smith noted that the debate over Prop 8 isn’t “about the worth of gay individuals.”
“Those who support traditional marriage recognize that gay people can be loyal friends, dedicated community leaders, and beloved sons and daughters,” he said. “And those with religious objections to same-sex marriage distinguish between the conduct, which they consider inappropriate, and the person, whom they may cherish and appreciate.”
As of Wednesday, the resolution had 17 co-sponsors, including Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Steve King (R-Iowa).
A House Democratic leadership aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said House Democratic leadership had no plan to bring the resolution to the House floor.
“I suppose if they want to file a discharge petition maybe they could do that, but I think we will be out of session before the clock runs [out] on a discharge,” said the aide. “So the bottom line is that the Democratic leadership has no intention of bringing this to the floor.”
A discharge petition brings a bill out of committee and to the House floor without a report from the committee and usually without cooperation of leadership. A discharge petition requires the signature of 218 House members — a simple majority.
Whether this resolution has the support of the Republican leadership is unclear. The office of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) didn’t immediately respond to the Blade’s request to comment on whether he supports the resolution.
Gay groups representing LGBT people on opposite ends of the political spectrum pounced on the resolution as unnecessary and hostile.
Christian Berle, deputy executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, said the measure was “in direct contradiction” to the tenets of individual liberty espoused by the Republican Party.
“Log Cabin Republicans would oppose any effort by Congress to play politics with this ruling,” Berle said. “Now is the time for Republicans to focus on the real issues voters care about: jobs, the economy, taxes, government spending and a free market economy.”
Michael Mitchell, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, said the proposed resolution represents “a willful disregard for the three branches of government.”
“On the one hand, I think it’s grandstanding,” he said. “I think that they’re just really trying to shore up their base. I think that they are definitely on the wrong side of history and that time is going to show that very quickly even in their own party.”
But in an e-mail blast Wednesday, Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes marriage rights for same-sex couples, urged supporters to call their members of Congress to join on as co-sponsors to the resolution.
“House Resolution 1607 is an important first opportunity for leaders in Congress to go on record defending Proposition 8 and condemning the activism from the bench that would simply create — out of thin air — a new constitutional right to same-sex marriage, while overthrowing the will of 7 million California voters,” he said.