The Magazine

Marilyn's Amendment

The first-term congresswoman who's taking the lead against same-sex marriage.

Mar 1, 2004, Vol. 9, No. 24 • By ERIN MONTGOMERY
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The couple, who married after their first year at Colorado State University, have four children and five grandchildren. The Musgraves still own a custom hay business in their hometown of Fort Morgan, a farming community of about 9,000. Their sons worked as machine operators growing up, and their daughters helped out with the business as well. Musgrave fondly recalls driving a bale wagon while pregnant with her fourth child. The business, in operation mainly during the summer months, was a good complement to Steve's career as a math and science teacher, and allowed Musgrave to stay at home with their kids. "The best job I've ever had was staying at home and raising my children," Musgrave says.

It was dissatisfaction with the lack of discipline and academic rigor in her children's classrooms, and her support for school choice, that prompted Musgrave to run for public office. In 1990, she was elected to the Fort Morgan School Board, where she served for two years. She was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 1994 and the state Senate in 1998. She was one of the legislature's strongest Second Amendment supporters and an advocate of tax cuts. A member of the First Assembly of God, she has not separated her faith from her role as a legislator and sponsored bills opposing abortion and same-sex marriage.

When fellow Republican Bob Schaffer announced in November 2001 that he would honor his term-limits pledge and retire from the U.S. House of Representatives, Musgrave ran to replace him, defeating Democratic state senator Stan Matsunaka by 55-42 percent. She now sits on the House committees on Agriculture, Education and the Workforce, and Small Business, and is enjoying the ride so far.

A conviction politician even when it means alienating fellow Republicans, she was the only freshman to vote no on the first round of votes regarding an expensive new prescription drug benefit for Medicare, the federal health insurance for seniors. During the second round, House speaker Dennis Hastert directly lobbied her for her vote, but again, she declined. That night, President Bush called her to ask her for her vote. "I said, 'Mr. President: Love you, pray for you, admire you, you're my hero, but I just can't do it. I'm a no vote.'" Musgrave says the president was a gentleman--he thanked her and undoubtedly went on to the next representative to round up the necessary votes.

Musgrave describes what happened then as providential. As soon as she hung up the phone with the president, the cell phone on her desk started vibrating. It was her 4-year-old grandson, Frankie, calling to say hello. "I picked up my cell phone and this little voice came on," she says. "And I'm not kidding you, I just was overwhelmed with thinking about what we are leaving to our grandchildren, what we're doing to future generations, to our kids and our grandkids, and I felt so good about my no vote."

Erin Montgomery is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.