Person of the Week: Marilyn Musgrave

ByPeter Jennings

Feb. 27, 2004 -- When President Bush called on Congress to support a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union only between a man and a woman, the debate about redefining American marriage was set on a whole new path.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave's name will always be associated with the possibility of revolutionary change.

"Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman," said Musgrave, R-Colo., reading her proposal for a constitutional amendment that would also forbid the courts from imposing a solution.

Musgrave's proposal was actually introduced in Congress last June. She did not quite imagine getting this much attention.

She believes America is in a culture war. She is deeply opposed to gay marriage, though she wouldn't say why.

"I do have an opinion on the issue, but I don't think that it's appropriate to bring that into this arena because I'm not a minister. I'm a lawmaker, and I function as one. When people [sponsor legislation about] Medicare or prescription drug benefits, no one wants to delve into their souls," she said.

Musgrave thinks her proposed amendment might not stop at gay marriage.

"I really think that if we redefined marriage, if we blur those lines of the definition of marriage that the next step is polygamy or group marriage."

Private Woman, Public Business

Musgrave appears to be a contradiction in some ways. She claims to be very private, but politics is the most public business. She is reserved with a stranger but wants to be a public player in the Congress.

She has already taken on her party seniors, challenging a Republican proposal for a federal gas tax and the president's AIDS package for Africa.

"If you would have told me 15 years ago that I would be where I am today, I would have found it very hard to believe," said Musgrave. "Before I ran for office, I was a stay-home mom. My life was centered around my children and my husband."

First Taste of Politics

Musgrave got her first taste for politics and society in a high school government class discussing capital punishment.

"What I was really thinking about was justice. What happens when a life is taken, and what is the appropriate punishment? Even then I was uncomfortable with things that didn't seem to add up in my mind as far as what should be going on in society," she said.

She grew up in Greeley, Colo., which was founded as a farm and temperance center. She says she was a rough-and-tumble kid.

Musgrave became a teacher and gradually turned into a political activist. She was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 1994 and the Colorado Senate four years later. In 2002, she was elected to the U.S. House.

Musgrave and her husband have a hay-bailing business; they have four children and five grandchildren. She is a committed Christian.

Country Casts Deciding Vote

Musgrave wants to keep the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. But she is absolutely certain that the country as a whole must decide.

At home this weekend, Musgrave says she will be right at home with people who think like her.

She will have the added knowledge that she is a player now in a revolution where the end is uncertain.

"I have one vote in Congress," Musgrave said. "One vote out of 435, and if you pass a constitutional amendment, you have to have a super-majority in the House and the Senate, so I'm the bill's sponsor. I don't get to decide. The American people and their elected reps get to decide."

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