Jun 06 2006
Full text of Senator Shelby’s remarks as prepared:
Mr. President, I rise today as a cosponsor and strong supporter of the Marriage Protection Amendment.
If you had told me 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago that I would be standing before the United States Senate advocating a Constitutional Amendment that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman I would have thought you had lost your mind. Why in the world would you ever need to do that – doesn’t it go without saying that men and women get married?
Yet, I stand here today advocating a Constitutional Amendment that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. What was once thought preposterous is now a reality. We are faced with this new reality because activist judges throughout this great nation have decided to redefine marriage. The courts – not the people, not the states – are redefining a fundamental institution of our society, the very foundation of our civilization.
Ironically this new definition of marriage runs contrary to what a majority of Americans believe. In fact, 45 of the 50 states have either a state constitutional amendment or a statute defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. On average, those measures have passed with more than 70 percent support.
And Mr. President, today the voters in my home state of Alabama will vote on a state constitutional amendment regarding marriage. Regardless of the outcome, no judge should be able to impose his or her moral will on Alabama if the voters have decided otherwise.
What appears to be a broad consensus throughout the country for protecting the institution of marriage is being undermined and redefined by activist judges. These judges have struck down numerous state laws intended to protect the traditional definition of marriage. State courts in California, Georgia, Maryland, New York and Washington have overturned laws or amendments protecting marriage, and a federal judge in Nebraska invalidated a state amendment prohibiting “same-sex marriage.”
I have long thought that it was the role of the judiciary to interpret the law, not make the law. However, these activist judges across the country have taken it upon themselves to make laws that, in many cases, redefine the definition of marriage. These judges have taken it upon themselves to make decisions reserved for state legislatures who have worked to be responsive to their constituencies and define marriage in the traditional sense. The difference is that these activist judges do not have to be responsive to anyone and are accountable to no one.
Abraham Lincoln reminded us in the Gettysburg Address that we have a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Activist judges, accountable to no one should not be allowed to govern. The basic foundation of our Constitution does not invest total control in the judiciary – it is not government by the judiciary, rather it is government by the people. And Mr. President, on this issue the people have spoken.
Activist judges should not be permitted to redefine the sacred bond of marriage. For generations, humanity has defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman upon which families are built. It is the institution of marriage upon which our society has flourished.
Mr. President, States must be allowed to continue to exercise their will. States that pass laws or constitutional amendments should not be over-ridden by an overactive judiciary who believe they have the power to redefine the moral character upon which our nation was built.
I believe the President summed it up appropriately when he said, “The union of a man and woman in marriage is the most enduring and important human institution. For ages, in every culture, human beings have understood that marriage is critical to the well-being of families. And because families pass along values and shape character, marriage is also critical to the health of society. Our policies should aim to strengthen families, not undermine them. And changing the definition of marriage would undermine the family structure.”
Therefore, Mr. President, I stand before you today in strong support of this Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Mr. President, I yield the balance of my time.