McCain, Kyl split on marriage amendment

PHOENIX – Arizona's two U.S.

senators are on opposite sides as the U.S.

Senate prepares to vote on a constitutional amendment against recognizing same-sex marriages.

Republican Sen.

Jon Kyl will vote for the amendment and Republican Sen.

John McCain will vote against it, spokesmen said Monday.

Meanwhile, the possibility of an expected vote as early as Wednesday lessened Monday as Democrats rejected a request by Senate Republicans to hold separate votes on two different versions of the amendment.

Kyl and McCain were on the same side of the gay-marriage issue in 1996 when Congress passed – and former President Clinton signed – the Defense of Marriage Act.

That statute said marriage under federal law could refer only to the relationship between a man and a woman and that no state was required to recognize action in another state to allow same-sex marriages.

Supporters of the constitutional amendment contend it is needed because courts could require states to honor marriages of same-sex couples wed elsewhere in the country.

Same-sex marriages have been performed in Massachusetts since May under a November ruling by that state's highest court, which said gay couples have a constitutional right to marry.

"The only way that the American people will ever have a voice in this matter is if Congress sends to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment defining and protecting traditional marriage," Kyl said in a floor statement released by his office.

The amendment would write into the Constitution that "marriage in the United States shall consist only of a union of a man and a woman."

In a June letter to constituents, McCain said amending the Constitution "cannot be done as a knee-jerk reaction to a tough problem."

"While Sen.

McCain believes marriage should be limited to a man and a woman, he opposes tampering with the Constitution and wants this issue to be resolved by the states," spokesman Marshall Wittman said from Washington.

While gay-rights activists welcomed McCain's stance on the vote, they said they wished he supported same-sex marriages.

"As long as he votes no, I don't really care why at the moment," said Kathie Gummere, a gay-rights activist who lobbies the Arizona Legislature.

"Of course our long-term goal is full equality."

A prominent social conservative expressed disappointment.

"You'd think he'd be somewhat concerned about what people in Arizona think on an issue like this.

It doesn't seem like he is," said Len Munsil, president of the Center for Arizona Policy.

"However, this is the opening skirmish.

Just like abortion, this issue is not going to go away," Munsil added.

Amendments to the Constitution require approval by two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate and ratification by three-fourths of state legislatures.