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FEDERAL MARRIAGE AMENDMENT (FMA) TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION

Recent events up to 2004-MAY

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Quotations:

bullet"The ultimate outcome of our coming national culture war over gay marriage will either be legal gay marriage throughout the United States, or passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment." American Family Association. 1

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In this essay, and others:

bullet

"SSM" means "same-sex marriage;"

bullet

"FMA" means "Federal MArriage Amendment."

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Federal Marriage Amendment timeline:

bullet1996-SEP: The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits the federal government from granting to same-sex couples any of the rights that it routinely grants to all opposite-sex married couples. It was passed by a vote of 342 to 67 in the House, and 85 to 14 in the Senate. It was signed into  law by President Bill Clinton in 1996-SEP. There is no consensus among constitutional experts whether this law will withstand a constitutional challenge.
bullet2002-MAY-15: FMA introduced to House: Representative Ronnie Shows, (D-MS) introduced a bill to the House of Representatives, called titled "Marriage Amendment." This is the first step in the long road to amend the U.S. Constitution. It was worded: "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, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups." It did not proceed. 1
bullet2003-MAY-21: Bill reintroduced: Representative Marilyn Musgrave reintroduced a proposed constitutional amendment, H.J. Res 56, to the House of Representatives. It had the same wording as the 2002 version, above.
bullet2003-SEP-4: Senate Hearing: The Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights held a hearing to address the question: "What is Needed to Defend the Bipartisan Defense of Marriage Act of 1996?" According to its chairperson. John Cornyn (R-TX), the subcommittee decided that marriage does meet the standard required for a constitutional amendment. A constitutional amendment is the only way to assure that same-sex committed couples continue to be deprived of the same rights as are automatically granted to opposite-sex married couples. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) stated that constitutional amendments are reserved for "matters of significant importance." Many social conservatives feel that denying equal rights to same-sex couples is of sufficient importance to qualify. 2
bullet2003-OCT-3: Marriage proclamation: President George W. Bush issued a proclamation declaring 2003-OCT-12 to 18 as "Marriage Protection Week, 2003." It is intended to be the first in a series of an annual celebrations. In the proclamation, he defined marriage as "a union between a man and a woman." The proclamation advocates the promotion of "healthy [opposite-sex] marriages and a better quality of life for children." The statement contained one unusual sentence: "...we must continue our work to create a compassionate, welcoming society, where all people are treated with dignity and respect." This might possibly refer to same-sex couples, who were otherwise ignored by the document. 3
bullet2003-OCT-12: Marriage Protection Week: This is sponsored by a number of conservative groups. In a sermon outline prepared for this event, the Family Research Council urges visitors to its web site to pressure politicians to support a federal marriage amendment "which would define marriage as being limited to one man and one woman and would bar judges from granting marriage or its benefits to same-sex couples, the unmarried, or groups." They recommend that visitors only "Support, volunteer for, donate to, and vote for candidates for public office at all levels who pledge to limit marriage and its benefits to unions of one man and one woman." 4
bullet2003-OCT-30: President supports restricting marriage: At a White House news conference, when asked for his views on homosexuality, President George W Bush said "Yes, I am mindful that we're all sinners. And I caution those who may try to take the speck out of the neighbor's eye when they've got a log in their own...."I think it's very important for our society to respect each individual, to welcome those with good hearts, to be a welcoming country. On the other hand, that does not mean that somebody like me needs to compromise on an issue such as marriage....I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and I think we ought to codify that one way or another. And we've got lawyers looking at the best way to do that." 5
bullet2003-NOV-26: Marriage Amendment bill introduced in the Senate: Sponsor Wayne Allard (R-CO) and co-sponsors Sam Brownback (R-KS), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Jim Bunning (R-KY), and Jim Onhofe (R-OK) introduced a federal Marriage Amendment bill into the Senate. Wording is identical to the bill originally introduced in 2002. It would reserve marriage for opposite-sex couples only; it would void any state or federal law -- past or future -- that gave any marital-type benefits at all to same-sex couples. 6

This essay continues below.

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bullet2003-DEC-17: President may support marriage amendment: In an interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer, he criticized the initial decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court which authorized same-sex marriage in the state. He said that the court's decision, and those in some other states, "undermine the sanctity of marriage....we may need a constitutional amendment.....If necessary, I will support a constitutional amendment which would honor marriage between a man and a woman, codify that. The position of this administration is that whatever legal arrangements people want to make, they're allowed to make, so long as it's embraced by the state or at the state level." This final point was a bit of a bombshell. It seems to imply that President Bush would support the right of any state to create civil unions or family partnerships for same-sex couples. This would please certain of his conservative supporters who deeply value states' rights. But it deeply horrified other conservatives who are unwilling to extend any rights to same sex couples which are similar to those automatically enjoyed by all opposite-sex married couples. 6
bullet2004-FEB-24: President supports marriage amendment: In an address to the media, President Bush criticized "some activist judges and local officials [who] have made an aggressive attempt to redefine marriage." He was referring to the ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that the state constitution forbids restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples. He was also referring to activities by city officials in San Francisco who granted thousands of marriage licenses to committed same-sex couples. He said: "After more than two centuries of American jurisprudence, and millennia of human experience, a few judges and local authorities are presuming to change the most fundamental institution of civilization. Their actions have created confusion on an issue that requires clarity....On a matter of such importance, the voice of the people must be heard. Activist courts have left the people with one recourse. If we are to prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever, our nation must enact a constitutional amendment to protect marriage in America." 7
bullet2004-MAR-21: Pew Research finds little support for FMA: The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press completed a poll of 1,703 American adults concerning the FMA and other topics. Margin of error is about 2.4%. Some results related to the FMA:
bullet32% favor the FMA to ban SSM
bullet59% oppose the FMA
bullet9% had no opinion or refused to answer. 13

Support for the FMA was highly dependent on party affiliation:
bullet54% of Republicans
bullet29% of Democrats, and
bullet30% of Independents favored the FMA 14

bullet2004-MAR-23: Wording of FMA changed: The sponsors of the Marriage Amendment, Senator Wayne Allard (R-CoO) and Representative Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO), have rewording their bill. They explained that the changes are purely "technical" and said that the intent of the bill is unchanged: to prohibit same-sex marriages and prevent "activist judges" from requiring states to create civil unions. The new wording would allow state legislatures to establish civil unions which would provide at least some of the state benefits that all opposite-sex married couples automatically receive. Some constitutional experts had argued that the original wording would prevent states from creating civil unions (like Vermont) or registered domestic partnerships (like California).

The first sentence of the proposed amendment remains unchanged. It still reads: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman."

The second sentence is changed from:
bullet"Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups." TO
bullet"Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman."

A White House spokesperson said that President Bush concurs with the new wording. 12

bullet2004-APR-2: Alliance for Marriage poll begins: Alliance for Marriage is the group which created the original draft of the FMA. National Quorum™ conducted a four day poll of 1,000 American adults. The current version of the FMA was recited to the subjects, who were asked to indicate whether they favored or opposed the amendment. Results were:
bullet57% strongly favored,
bullet10% somewhat favored,
bullet7% somewhat opposed,
bullet23% strongly opposed the FMA.
bullet3% had no opinion or refused to answer.

The results of this poll conflicted with many later polls which found the above ratios approximately reversed.

bullet2004-APR-19: Federal marriage amendment in trouble? The conservative Christian American Family Association (AFA) sent an Email to their subscribers titled "Congress set to kill federal marriage amendment; fear homosexual backlash." Their assessment is that most members of Congress don't want to handle this issue "either because they support homosexual marriage or they fear a backlash from the homosexual community." Since homosexuals appear to total about 5% of the electorate, and since over 60% of the general public is in favor of restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples, it would seem that the former reason is more likely. The AFA quotes an unidentified senator as saying: "If we talk about same-sex relationships or homosexuality we look mean spirited. It has been decided that we take the high road and only talk about traditional marriage being the cornerstone of civilization. That is the way we will go." This seems to imply that there is a conspiracy among senators to restrict their comments and only promote opposite-sex marriage as a foundation of society. This is a valid point of view, even among persons who favor allowing same-sex couples to marry, because in countries like Belgium, Canada, and Holland, where same-sex marriage is allowed, probably on the order of 97% of all marriages will continue to be "traditional" unions -- entered into by opposite-sex couples.

The tone of the AFA release sounds panicky. They write: "Without a massive campaign urging members of Congress to vote for the Federal Marriage Amendment [FMA], the bill will die in committee. That way, no Senator or Representative will have to go on record as opposing or supporting the FMA....Those seeking to destroy marriage are calling by the thousands! Their voice is the only one being heard by members of Congress....It is going to take all of us working together to keep the institution of marriage from being destroyed." 8
bullet2004-APR-29: Federal marriage amendment in trouble? The fundamentalist Christian organization, Focus on the Family, sent its third E-mail in three weeks. They regard the status of the same-sex marriage debate as reaching a critical state. Founder James Dobson wrote: "...the [homosexual] activists and the courts seem to be succeeding. Possibly in a matter of weeks, and certainly with devastating consequences for the family, they may complete the job, unless we all take a stand." The letter strongly urges recipients to phone the Capitol switchboard. He writes: "If enough of you call, perhaps we can shut down the Capitol switchboard; that would send a message that Congress won't soon forget." Let us hope that if his supporters do shut down the switchboard, that no emergency calls need to be handled. 9
bullet2004-MAY-2: Family Research Council predicts wake-up call: Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), has predicted that 2004-MAY-17 will serve as a "wake-up call" to the American public. This is the date when same-sex couples in Massachusetts will be able to purchase marriage licenses. On MAY-20, following a three-day waiting period, they will be able to actually marry and have their marriages registered by the state. Perkins said: "If the court's shotgun wedding takes place on that day, the rest of America will see that they had better speak up now or they'll see the same thing taking place in their own states. This takes it from a Massachusetts problem to an American problem." He predicts that the events of MAY-17 will energize the push to pass the marriage amendment. Evan Wolfson, head of Freedom to Marry, disagrees. He said: "When the dust settles, we'll see that no one is hurt, families are helped, gays did not use up all the marriage licenses, and there's enough marriage to share." 10
bullet  2004-MAY-28: New book announced: James Dobson, founder and head of the Fundamentalist Christian group, Focus on the Family, has written a hardcover book which will be published during 2004-JUN. It is titled: "Marriage Under Fire: Why we must win this war." The book attempts to explain same-sex marriage and the FMA to Evangelical Christians. Barnes & Noble's web site includes the publisher's review of the book: "For the past forty years, the homosexual movement has sought to implement a master plan to utterly destroy the family. Unelectable and unaccountable rogue judges have made a habit of inventing rights that not only don't exist in the Constitution, but also contradict both the will of the people and the actions of the legislative branch. Christians around the world have scrambled, wondering how to respond. How do we discuss this intelligently? What can we do to make our voices heard? In his newest release, Marriage Under Fire, Dr. James Dobson addresses the dire ramifications of judicial activism and presents compelling arguments against the legalization of homosexual unions-mobilizing the Christian community to respond to a call to action." 11,12 Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com's online book store The list price is $10.99. Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble sell it for less than $9.00 plus postage.

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Subsequent events are discussed in a separate essay.

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References used:

  1. "Marriage Protection Week: More information," American Family Association, at: http://www.marriageprotectionweek.com/
  2. Letter from John Cornyn, 2003-SEP-17, at: http://www.marriageprotectionweek.com/
  3. G.W. Bush, "Marriage Protection Week, 2003," at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/
  4. " 'One Flesh': Sample Sermon Outline for Marriage Protection Week 2003," Family Research Council, 2003-OCT, at: http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=PD03J02 
  5. "Bush wants marriage reserved for heterosexuals. 'We ought to codify that'," CNN.com, 2003-OCT-30, at: http://edition.cnn.com/
  6. Rob Moll, "Marriage Amendment Introduced in Senate," Christianity Today, 2003-NOV-24, at: http://www.christianitytoday.com
  7. "President Calls for Constitutional Amendment Protecting Marriage," The White House, 2004-FEB-24, at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/
  8. "Congress Set to kill Federal Marriage Amendment; fear homosexual backlash," American Family Association, 2004-APR-20.
  9. James Dobson, "Call Congress NOW to protect marriage," Focus on the Family Email, 2004-MAY-2.
  10. Carolyn Lockhead, "Pivotal day for gay marriage in U.S. nears. Massachusetts move to legalize weddings may intensify backlash in other states," San Francisco Chronicle, at: http://www.sfgate.com/
  11. Michael Foust, "Senate plans mid-July vote on Federal Marriage Amendment," Baptist Press, 2004-JUN-21, at: http://www.bpnews.net.
  12. James Dobson, "Marriage under fire: Why we must win this war," Multnomah, (2004). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
  13. "Far more voters believe election outcome matters," Pew Research, 2004-MAR-25, at: http://people-press.org/
  14. "Additional Findings and Analyses," Pew Research, approx. 2004-MAR-25, at: http://people-press.org/
  15. "Senate Majority Leader Stands With Diverse Coalition As Senate Begins Debate on AFM’s Marriage Amendment. Senate Action Marks Start of National Debate on Marriage Amendment Drafted By the Alliance For Marriage Over Three Years Ago," Alliance for Marriage, 2004-JUL-12, at: http://www.allianceformarriage.org/

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Copyright © 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004-MAY-1
Latest update: 2004-JUL-12
Author: B.A. Robinson

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