WASHINGTON -- Delivering a more forthright speech than is often seen from politicians on the issue, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer -- the third ranking member of the Senate -- told a homosexual group last week that "gay marriage" supporters "must not rest" until it is legalized in all 50 states.
Schumer's comments came as Maine prepares for Tuesday's vote that will decide the future of "gay marriage" there. If Question 1 passes it would overturn a new state law that legalized "marriage" for same-sex couples. But if it fails it would be the first time any state will have approved "gay marriage" at the ballot.
Schumer's blunt comments went against the states' rights argument often made by legislators who back "gay marriage." Instead of saying that each state should have the right to decide the definition of marriage, Schumer (D.-N.Y.) instead called for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that gives states the option of not recognizing a marriage from another state.
"Ten years ago, many thought that civil unions were about the best we could hope for. But the time for marriage has come," Schumer, speaking at the Empire State Pride Agenda dinner, said. "I call on all of my colleagues -- Democrat and Republican, in the Congress, in the state senate, in the state legislature, to support full marriage equality now.... Equality should know no bounds, and we must not rest until we have [gay] marriage in all 50 of these United States."
The comments were made Oct. 22 but are just now getting nationwide attention thanks to a YouTube video and a Politico.com story.
Schumer, who ranks only behind Sens. Harry Reid and Dick Durbin in the Democratic Senate leadership, added he hopes "soon" to see the Senate "get rid of DOMA once and for all."
"A marriage shouldn't dissolve when you fly from Iowa to South Carolina," he said. "And that's why I'm going to fight to make all federal rights portable. If you get married in one state and have a legitimate marriage license, you should be able to have federal rights in every state of these United States."
The vote in Maine comes one year after California voters passed Proposition 8, which reversed a court ruling that had legalized "gay marriage." It was considered a shocking loss for homosexual activist groups, who have vowed not to allow a repeat in Maine, another left-leaning state.
The outcome in Maine will have national implications, said Bob Emrich, a spokesperson for Stand for Marriage Maine and pastor of Emmanuel Bible Baptist Church in Plymouth, Maine. Stand for Marriage Maine (StandForMarriageMaine.com) is the primary organization backing Question 1.
"This would be their first victory at the ballot box. That has tremendous P.R. appeal to them," Emrich told Baptist Press. "If they can for the first time win here on a ballot, that would help them with their nationwide fundraising and organizing.... I just got off a conference call with some folks in California who are wanting to know how things are going here in Maine. They see that we'll have a direct impact on them."
Emrich said he is "cautiously confident" Question 1 will pass.
"If we win this in Maine, it's going to be a tremendous victory for traditional marriage all across the country because [Question 1 opponents] have poured so much money, so much organization into it," he said. "If they fail in a state like Maine, I just think it takes all the energy out of their movement."
Schumer applauded passage of a recent homosexual hate crimes bill but said it was just the start.
"We have an agenda and we're moving forward with it," he said.
Next up, he said, will be the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, which would protect homosexuals from hiring and firing and which religious organization fear will impact them and their beliefs.
"And let me add this: I am proud that ENDA will not just protect the Ls, the Gs and the Bs, but the Ts as well. We must include our transgender friends," Schumer said, referencing the acronym LGBT, which stands for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.
A bill that would repeal the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy will be introduced "in the coming weeks," he said.