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Interview With Marilyn Musgrave, Kevin Cathcart

Aired June 30, 2003 - 19:26   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR: Well, privacy and gay rights activists are hailing as a victory last week's Supreme Court decision overturning a Texas law against sodomy.
But just a day before the court's ruling, a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution moved ahead in Congress. The amendment recognizes only the union between a man and a woman.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist yesterday said he would support this constitutional change.


SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: I very much feel that marriage is a sacrament. And that sacrament should extend, and can extend, to that legal entity of a union between what has traditionally in our western values been defined as a man and a woman. So I would support the amendment.


COOPER: Well, should couples of the same sex be legally prevented from marrying?

Joining us to discuss the issue is Kevin Cathcart, executive director for Lambda Legal Defense Fund. He's with me in the studio right here. And Republican Representative Marilyn Musgrave, sponsor the bill to make same sex marriages unconstitutional. She joins us from Denver.

Congresswoman, both of you, thank you for being with us.

Congressman, let me start with you. I just want to show the audience some of the proposed amendment, what you are proposing. We're going to put it on the screen.

It says, "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any state, under state or federal law shall be construed to require the marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

Why is this necessary? Why is a constitutional amendment necessary in your opinion?

REP. MARILYN MUSGRAVE (R), COLORADO: Well, the amendment is necessary because the radical activists are going to the courts to get what they want.

They've had every opportunity to go through the democratic legislative process to get those things. But they don't want to do that. They want to get same sex marriage, homosexual marriage through the courts, through unelected, liberal judges, rather than going through the process that's there, that is available for them right now.

COOPER: OK. Let me bring in you, Kevin.

Now Justice Anthony Kennedy in the majority opinion in the Texas sodomy case, he just stopped short of saying the government is required to -- that they had to give some sort of formal recognition to gay unions. Why do you think -- why are you so opposed to this amendment?

KEVIN CATHCART, LAMBDA LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: Well, I think he stopped far short of that because that was not the issue in the Lawrence case that was a privacy case involving a criminal law.

The reason that I'm opposed to this amendment is that we believe that it is a state issue. The states have traditionally defined marriage for citizens of each state. And there is no reason for the federal government to be stepping in at this time and taking away power from the state.

COOPER: Congresswoman Musgrave, isn't it sort of ironic that -- I mean, Republicans traditionally are making the argument that Kevin is making, which is sort of a states' rights argument.

Why, now, are you actually saying there should be a constitutional change?

MUSGRAVE: Well, actually there are many states rights preserved in this amendment.

But the reason that we need a constitutional amendment is, again, what I said before, because the radical activists are going through the courts to unelected judges to get what they want, rather than through the democratic process.

The American people do not want marriage redefined, but the activists do. And they see their opportunity to get that done by going, again through the courts, rather than through the legislative process.

COOPER: Your response?

CATHCART: Poll after poll shows significant and growing public support for recognition of same sex relationships and for the provision of fair treatment and access to government services, et cetera to same sex couples. And I think that, actually, the data, if you look at the polls done over the last couple of years, shows that there is a real change going on in this country.

COOPER: There is certainly -- Congresswoman, you would no doubt agree with this -- a change going on elsewhere in the world. We've seen it in Canada. Britain made some moves today, as well.

Do you think this is inevitable? I mean, is that your concern, that there seems to be this movement in other countries? Are you fearful that might happen here?

MUSGRAVE: Well, I don't think other countries need to dictate policy in the United States of America. They have problems that we don't need to duplicate.

But the fact of the matter is you talk about polls and how the American public feels. The American public does not want to change the definition of marriage, the definition that's been in place for over 200 years.

And again, if the public were with you, you would go through the legislative process to get what you want. But since the public is not with you, you're going to judges.

The American public is very frustrated with judicial activism. Most people understand the proper role of executive, legislative and judicial. And many judges have overstepped the things that they should be doing.

COOPER: All right. Kevin, if this does pass, this constitutional amendment passes, is the whole issue of gay marriage dead in the United States?

CATHCART: Absolutely not. You know, the process of amending the Constitution is very long and involved. It requires votes of both houses of Congress and then it requires ratification by three quarters of the states.

So there's going to be a long and lengthy public debate, if this even were to get out of Congress. And I'm not convinced it will get out of Congress.

COOPER: All right, we're going to have to leave it there. Kevin Cathcart, thanks for being with us. Congresswoman Musgrave, appreciate it as well. Thank you.

MUSGRAVE. Thank you very much.


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