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

2004 events, July-11 to 13:
"Protect Marriage Sunday," and the Senate debate

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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, "SSM" means "same-sex marriage."

Events prior to 2004-July-11 are discussed in a separate essay.

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FMA events, starting in 2004-July-11:

bullet2004-JUL-11: Result of Internet survey: OneVoice.org conducted an online survey to find visitors' reaction to the FMA. Their executive director, Edie Littlefield, said: "We've seen considerable interest by voters. But the website and Senate debate have only been alive for a few days, so it's too early to know how the numbers might change when more online voters speak out." Results as of Sunday, 2004-JUL-11 at 3 PM EST were:
bullet36% support the FMA.
bullet64% oppose the FMA.
bullet22% will vote against their senator if she/he opposes the FMA.
bullet31% will vote against their senator if he/she supports the FMA 2
bullet2004-JUL-11: TV Simulcast to promote the FMA: A series of live simulcasts has been organized by the Family Research Council in association with Focus on the Family, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). The first was broadcast to hundreds of conservative Christian churches in 2004-MAY. It featured leaders of many Fundamentalist Christian groups which oppose equal rights for same-sex couples, including Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council, James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship, and Adrian Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, TN.  3 A second simulcast will be held on what the ERLC has declared "Protect Marriage Sunday," 2004-JUL-11. It is called "Battle for Marriage -- Imminent Vote." 4 It will apparently be seen at a relatively small percentage of churches. For example, the Iowa Family Policy Center reports that it will only be at six churches in Iowa: three in Des Moines and three elsewhere in the state. 5

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bullet2004-JUL-11: Daniel Burke comments on the lead-up to the Senate debate: Daniel Burke of Religion News Service raised some points concerning the preparation for the FMA debate:
bulletFrom pro-FMA/anti-SSM groups:
bulletJames Dobson, founder and president of the Fundamentalist Christian group Focus on the Family asked listeners to his radio program to "Get all your friends to call [the congressional switchboard]. Call until the switchboard smokes." We can all hope that no emergency phone calls need to be handled in Congress while Dobson's followers are paralyzing the phone system.
bulletThe American Family Association has called JUL-12 "Call your Senators Day." They urge people who favor the FMA to call their senators on that day.
bulletThe U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has written to each of the U.S. bishops asking them to personally lobby their senators in favor of the FMA.
bulletBurke writes: "...conservative lawmakers and religious activists are looking to the amendment's debate as an opportunity to focus attention on the issue and to force senators to make their views public. 'It's important for politicians who have deftly avoided this issue ... to let people know where they really stand,' said Sen. Rick Santorum, (R-PA), who is a co-sponsor of the amendment."
bulletFrom anti-FMA/pro-SSM groups:
bulletSoulfource, a Christian gay-positive group, recommends that if a pastor attacks marriage for persons of all sexual orientations that their supporters simply stand as a silent protest. Spokesperson Laura Montgomery Rutt said: "We're trying to stop pastors from using their time on the pulpit to demean the loving relationship between two people."
bulletIn June, the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) wrote a letter to Congress that said, "It is not the task of our government and elected representatives to enshrine in our laws the religious point of view of any one faith."
bullet2004-JUL-11: Comments from visitors to Beliefnet.com. They offered their opinions on SSM and the FMA in a "What do you believe" forum. Their comments were overwhelmingly opposed to the amendment. Some are listed below, with spelling errors corrected:
bullet'amilius:' "Marriage, as recognized by the state, should recognize same-sex arrangements as socially beneficial arrangements among tax paying constituents deserving of equal rights protection as an evolving construct of a social rather than religious nature....The sacrament, with all the perceived religious overtones, is 'matrimony'. The secularly endorsed social arrangement is marriage. To truly establish the separation of church and state, religions should be allowed to discriminate among tax paying law abiding citizens of their following as they choose."
bullet'ogirl:' "catholicseeker said: 'And I WILL NOT, under pain of death, help support an amendment that enshrines hatred in our Constitution. They can excommunicate me if they want, but I will not hate in the name of God, for God hates none.' I couldn't agree more. God doesn't hate, and hate in his name is contradictory. I almost cried when I read this statement."
bullet'Keith1878:' Referring to Pat Robertson of the 700 Club, he writes: "My hope is that gays and lesbians stop trying to reason with unreasonable people. [They]...don't deserve to be reasoned with. We want our civil rights NOW!!! Not tomorrow, not 10 years from now, not when everyone votes on them, NOW!!"
bullet'sparky69:' "Let the churches decide who can be married in that scenario. Keep the separation of church and state, a line that the Bush administration is trying to erase. Too many of these conservatives can talk the talk, but too many of them can't walk the walk."
bullet'GinLiz:' "I really cannot understand why, if marriage is a sacred institution created by God, the government should hold the keys. Why on earth is marriage a government issue at all? Why can't everybody in the US have access to civil unions, a legal set of rights and responsibilities granted by the government. Churches can then 'marry' people as they sees fit, if it is an institution of God."
bullet'mightymountaingorilla:' "The Constitution is one of the most sacred things in the USA because it is 'THE LAW OF THE LAND' -- it determines the writing and interpretations of ALL laws--past or present.  The fact that most states have laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation, and that the Constitution could possibly have a law that supports discrimination is a basic contradiction. How can we teach our children to value the rights of others and the freedom that the USA promises all of its citizens, if we support such a horrible amendment to the most important document in the American legal system?"
bullet'gurpybear:' "Why is all the argument about this issue based on religious beliefs? The real issue is whether or not we as citizens of the USA want our Constitution amended to include discrimination for the first time in history."
bullet'sunshine2777:' "I disagree with the homosexual lifestyle. Homosexuality is a sin and a choice. God calls it a sin as well but I know 'man' (in general) thinks he has it 'all figured out and can justify it.' God will have the final say, regardless of what any of us think or say. But one would be wise to look back on any society that has gone down this road.... and see they were destroyed eventually."
bullet'insaigim2000:' "In a secular society like ours, marriage could be thought of as two institutions, the civil and the religious. The religious institution is the concern of specific religious bodies and no government has the right to decide for them how to handle it. The civil institution is the government's responsibility and it should make that institution available to any citizen in the same way it makes other civil institutions available. We are entering dangerous territory when we ask the government to legislate religious doctrine. It could come back to bite it's supporters."
bullet"Outing panic" grips Washington: Rumors are circulating that some gay activists have decided to expose gay and lesbian members of Congress who keep their sexual orientation secret and who plan to vote in favor of the FMA. Further, there are suggestions that the outing will extend to secretly gay and lesbian staff members of Senators who plan to vote for the FMA. John Aravosis wrote an article during the week of JUL-4 in the Washington Blade which said, in part: "The FMA is the legislative equivalent of a nuclear bomb. Facing such an unprecedented threat, it is time we considered an unprecedented response." Michelangelo Signorile wrote in 365gay.com: "Rumors have circulated in Washington that the Blade had planned to publish a list of names of closeted staffers and members, something the paper denies even as it defends reporting on those who might be closeted gays who might be voting for the amendment." 6

This essay continues below

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bullet2004-JUL-12: Alliance for Marriage promotes the FMA: Matt Daniels, is the president of the Alliance for Marriage (AFM), the group that wrote the initial draft of the FMA. He said: "The constitutional problem created by almost a decade of activist lawsuits to destroy our marriage laws demands a constitutional fix. AFMís marriage amendment has been introduced with bi-partisan sponsorship in two successive sessions of Congress in order to protect the common sense view of marriage shared by the vast majority of Americans of every race, color and creed." 7
bullet2004-JUL-12: Family Research Council discusses simulcast event: Tony Perkins discussed the previous day's simulcast called "Battle for Marriage -- Imminent Vote." He estimates that it was heard and watched by over a million radio listeners and television viewers -- perhaps one half of one percent of the adult population in the U.S. They urge their followers to phone their senators before the FMA vote is taken. They said: "Don't accept excuses from your Senators' staff. Additionally, don't be alarmed if you are transferred into a voicemail box or get a busy signal. We're shutting down the phones on Capitol Hill, and that's a good thing. Just hang up and call back until you get someone on the phone." 8 Hopefully, there will be no life-threatening, emergency calls that the congressional switchboard needs to handle during the early part of this week.
bullet2004-JUL-12: Pro-FMA news conference: Personnel from the Alliance for Marriage (AFM), who wrote the initial draft of the FMA, held a news conference in Washington. Forty groups were represented. President Matt Daniels said that the FMA sponsors: "...share a belief that we cannot survive as a nation if marriage is destroyed by a handful of activist lawyers and judges. To characterize these people as nothing more than partisan pawns is to demean them." Two senators attended the conference: Bill Frist (R-TN) and Sam Brownback (R-KS). 9
bullet2004-JUL-12: Last minute changes to the FMA:
bulletSenator Norm Coleman (R-MN) wants to see a reworded FMA that is patterned after the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). He will try to amend the FMA. He said: "I have some differences as to the language, but you've got to be able to debate something, you've got to be able to work on something, before you get there...I strongly support the statement that marriage is between a man and a woman. At the same time, I want to make sure that this does not force the discrimination." Mark Dayton (D-MN), Minnesota's other senator, opposes the FMA. 10
bulletSome Republican Senators are pushing for a simplified FMA. "Some Republicans argued that proposed language on other legal arrangements, such as civil unions, was confusing and could be interpreted as either sanctioning or banning such unions." 11 That is, in addition to banning SSM, the amendment could also prevent states and from creating civil unions or family partnerships for same-sex couples. One popular change would delete the current FMA's ambiguous second sentence. The revised FMA would simply state: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman." The Senate was expected to vote on the FMA as currently written, and then vote on the one sentence alternative. This change would outlaw marriage for same-sex couples, but would not inhibit courts and legislatures from creating Vermont-style civil unions or California-style family partnerships which could have all of the rights, privileges and obligations that states give to married couples.
bullet2004-JUL-12: First day of Senate debate on the FMA: Senate majority leader, Bill Frist (R-TN) allocated JUL-12 and 13 for debate on the FMA.
bulletAn article in the Salt Lake Tribune stated that Republican supporters of the FMA: "...have previously used Utah's territorial fight [in the 19th century] against the U.S. government over polygamy as an example of legitimate federal intrusion into state marriage law. But Senate Democrats brought up plural marriage policy Monday as they argued that states already have adequate authority over marriage and that the so-called Federal Marriage Amendment is a needless intrusion on states' rights." Senator Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA) said: "The courts have long held no state can be forced to recognize a marriage that offends a deeply held public policy of that state. Polygamous marriages, for example, even if sanctioned by another state, have consistently been rejected." Senator Orrin Hatch, (R-UT) said that Feinstein's argument "doesn't hold water." Referring to the ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that legalized SSM, Hatch predicted that: "every state in the union is going to be bound by those marriages." The article states that both Republicans and Democrats acknowledge that the FMA will fail to receive the necessary 67 votes to pass the Senate. There is speculation that the Republicans are using the FMA to highlight differences between the two parties in advance of the November election. 12
bulletRick Santorum (R-PA) said that the purpose of the FMA was to protect marriage and the family and not to deny anyone's rights. He said that the FMA was needed to "stop what I believe is the death knell of our society." 11
bulletSen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) felt that the debate as a "waste of time." She believes that Republicans are trying to "drive a division into the voters of America...one more wedge issue at a very difficult time to be used politically in elections." She feels that the issue should be left to to states to decide. 11
bullet2004-JUL-13: Debate continues; more comments on the FMA:
bulletSenator Rick Santorum, (R-PA) said: "I cannot think of anything more important than the basic social building block of our country, and that is what marriage is, that is what the family is, and it is in jeopardy. It is in serious, real jeopardy as a result of what the courts are doing." 13 On another occasion, he said: "I'm a lover of traditional families and children who deserve the right to have a mother and a father. [The FMA]....has profound consequences, profound consequences on children and thereby on the next generation." 14
bulletSenator Barbara Boxer, (D-CA) said: "We're not talking about ways to stop al-Qaida here. We're not talking about ways to fix our intelligence here. We're talking about amending the Constitution. The Constitution is too great a document to be used as an applause meter before a convention." 13
bulletSen. John McCain, (R-AZ) said: "I would like to see the right of my state preserved to decide the matter of gay marriage."
bulletJack Pitney, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California, said: "For the general public, it's a second-tier issue at most, but it's the kind of an issue that can energize social conservatives."  13
bulletSenator Ted Kennedy, (D-MA): "The rabid, reactionary religious right has rarely looked more ridiculous. They know they don't have the votes to come even close to passing this amendment. But they have sufficient stranglehold on the White House and the Republican leadership in Congress to force the issue to a vote anyway, in a desperate effort to arouse their narrow-minded constituency and somehow gain an advantage in the elections this year."

Republicans attempted to schedule an alternative wording to the FMA which would delete its second, ambiguous sentence. "...some legal scholars said the wording [of that clause] is vague enough that it could prohibit states from enacting laws allowing gays to enter into civil unions, as they can do in Vermont." This is a fairly common stealth technique used by some religious and social conservatives: to write a bill that is ambiguous and can be interpreted and implemented in different ways. This technique was used to create many state laws to eliminate D&X abortions; it led to all of them having been declared unconstitutional. In other cases, bills to outlaw strip joints were worded in such a way that it would also ban naturist resorts.

Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) proposed the revised wording. However, Democrats blocked it from consideration. Minority Leader Tom Daschle, (D-SD), said: "The Republicans find themselves in an embarrassing position. They cannot agree among themselves as to what form the amendment relating to gay marriage or the marriage amendment ought to take." He said that a revision would open the door to other revisions "...in essence, making the Senate a constitutional convention." 13,15

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Subsequent events are discussed in a separate essay.

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References:

  1. "Marriage Protection Week: More information," American Family Association, at: http://www.marriageprotectionweek.com/
  2. "Issue #1," One Voice, at: http://www.onevoice.org/
  3. Michael Foust, "Senate plans mid-July vote on Federal Marriage Amendment," Baptist Press, 2004-JUN-21, at: http://www.bpnews.net.
  4. "Faith, Family & Freedom - The Battle for Marriage: Imminent Vote," at: www.wevotevalues.com
  5. "Take Action to Protect Marriage!," Iowa Family Policy Center, 2004-JUL-09.
  6. Michelangelo Signorile, "It's Outing Season!," 365gay.com, at: http://365gay.com/
  7. "Senate Majority Leader Stands With Diverse Coalition As Senate Begins Debate on AFMís 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/
  8. Tony Perkins, "FRC Goes On the Air Just Days Before the Senate Votes," Washington Update, Family Research Council, 2004-JUL-12.
  9. Pete Winn, "Flurry of Activity as FMA Vote Nears," Focus on the Family, Citizen Link, 2004-JUL-12.
  10. Frederic Frommer, "Coleman will vote for gay marriage amendment," Associated Press, 2004-JUL-12, at: http://www.miami.com/
  11. Helen Dewar and Alan Cooperman, "GOP May Revise Marriage Amendment,"  Washington Post, 2004-JUL-12, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  12. Christopher Smith, "Senate's gay marriage debate veers into polygamy discussion," The Salt Lake Tribune, 2004-JUL-13, at: http://166.70.44.66/2004/
  13. Jim Puzzanghera, "Gay marriage amendment expected to fall short in Senate," Knight Ridder Newspapers, 2004-JUL-13 at: http://www.kansascity.com/
  14. John Shovelan, "US Republicans all but concede failure of gay marriage ban," The World Today, 2004-JUL-14, at: http://www.abc.net.au/
  15. Tim Harper, "Republican strategy unravels. Planned to force vote on gay marriage. Party members clash over proposed ban," Toronto Star, 2004-JUL-14, Page A10.

Additional resources used:

  1. "Southern Baptists Take Strong Stand on FMA, U.S. Senate is Next," Family Research Council, Washington Update, 2004-JUN-16.
  2. Alan Cooperman, "Outcry from pews less than anticipated," Washington Post, published by the Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader on 2004-JUN-20 at: http://www.kentucky.com/
  3. The "NoGayMarriage.com" web site is at: http://www.nogaymarriage.com/
  4. "ACLU Renews Call to Keep Discrimination Out of Constitution; Points to Lack of Cohesion in Republican Party on Divisive Issue,"  ACLU, 2004-JUN-22, at: http://nfp.arrivenet.com
  5. "Please pray for marriage," Iowa Family Policy Center, 2004-JUN-25, news release.
  6. "Gov. Romney testifies for F.M.A. in D.C.," Massachusetts Family Institute, E-alert, 2004-JUN-25.
  7. "Conservative Silence on Marriage Amendment, One Year after 'Lawrence'," Pro_polygamy.comô, at: http://www.pro-polygamy.com/
  8. Gary Bauer, "Why we always lose," Campaign for Working Families, 2004-FEB-20, at: http://www.cwfpac.com
  9. David Kirpatrik, "Foes of gay marriage want more outrage," New York Times, 2004-MAY-17 at: http://www.iht.com/articles/520154.html
  10. Cal Thomas, "Culture debate is over," The Witchita Eagle, 2004-MAY-23, at: http://www.kansas.com/
  11. James Dobson, "Why we must back the Federal Marriage Amendment," Florida Baptist Witness, 2004-JUN-2, at: http://www.floridabaptistwitness.com/
  12. "Take Action," Human Rights Campaign, at: http://www.hrcactioncenter.org/
  13. "Over Two Million Petitions Presented to Capitol Hill," Family Research Council, 2004-JUL-09.
  14. "Protect Government Marriage Sunday" - Preaching Idolatry," Pro-Polygamy.com, 2004-JUL-09, at: http://www.pro-polygamy.com
  15. "Public Divided On Marriage Amendment," The Barna Group, 2004-JUN-21, at: http://www.barna.org/
  16. Daniel Burke, "Both Sides Prepare for Gay Marriage Showdown in Senate," Beliefnet, 2004-JUL-8, at: http://www.beliefnet.com/
  17. "Marriage amendment expected to die in Senate. Proposal to ban same-sex marriage unlikely to get enough votes," CNN News, 2004-JUL-14, at: http://edition.cnn.com/
  18. David Espo, "Senate Scuttles Gay Marriage Amendment," MyWay, 2004-JUL-4, at: http://apnews.myway.com/
  19. "Senate vote on Federal Marriage Amendment," OneVoice News, 2004-JUL-14, news release.

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Copyright © 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004-JUL-11
Latest update: 2004-JUL-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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