Senate Committee Erupts in Shouting as Anti-Gay Constititutional Amendment Is Approved

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) voted to move an anti-gay constitutional amendment that he didn’t agree with out of his committee for a vote by the full Senate — and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) lost it:

A Senate committee approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage Thursday, after a shouting match that ended when one Democrat strode out and the Republican chairman bid him “good riddance.”

“I don’t need to be lectured by you. You are no more a protector of the Constitution than am I,” [Specter] shouted after [Feingold] declared his opposition to the amendment, his affinity for the Constitution and his intention to leave the meeting.

“If you want to leave, good riddance,” Specter finished.

“I’ve enjoyed your lecture, too, Mr. Chairman,” replied Feingold, D-Wis., who is considering a run for president in 2008. “See ya.”

Amid increasing partisan tension over President Bush’s judicial nominees and domestic wiretapping, the panel voted along party lines to send the constitutional amendment which would prohibit states from recognizing same-sex marriages to the full Senate, where it stands little chance of passing.

Democrats complained that bringing up the amendment is a purely political move designed to appeal to the GOP’s conservative base in this year of midterm elections. Under the domed ceiling of the ornate and historic President’s Room off the Senate floor, senators voted 10-8 to send the measure forward.

Among Feingold’s objections was Specter’s decision to hold the vote in the President’s Room, where access by the general public is restricted, instead of in the panel’s usual home in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Specter later said he would have been willing to hold the session in the usual room had he thought doing so would change votes.

Not all those who voted “yes” support the amendment, however. Specter said he is “totally opposed” to it, but felt it deserved a debate in the Senate.

“Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman,” reads the measure, which would require approval by two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the states.

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