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Federal Marriage Amendments (FMA) to the U.S. Constitution

FMA opposition and support: 2006-MAY

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In this essay, and others, "SSM" means "same-sex marriage."
We use the term "SSM" rather than the more commonly used term "homosexual marriage" because many same-sex marriages and committed relationships are composed of one or more bisexuals.

Opposition to the FMA:

The American Civil Liberties Union published a list of 54 Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Unitarian and secular organizations who opposed the FMA in 2004. 16 It is unlikely that many have changed their stand since that time.

bulletThe Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR): This is "...the nation's oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition," It does not take a position for or against SSM. However, they urge legislators to oppose the FMA, which they describe as:

"...a radical proposal that would permanently write discrimination into the United States Constitution. LCCR believes that this highly divisive amendment is a dangerous and unnecessary approach to resolving the ongoing debate over same-sex marriage, and it would turn 225 years of Constitutional history on its head by requiring that states actually restrict the civil rights of their own citizens."

"The proposed amendment is antithetical to one of the Constitution's most fundamental guiding principles, that of the guarantee of equal protection for all. For the first time in history, it would use the Constitution as a tool of exclusion, restricting the rights of a group of Americans. It is so far-reaching that it would not only prohibit states from granting equal marriage rights to same-sex couples, but also may deprive same-sex couples and their families of fundamental protections such as hospital visitation, inheritance rights, and health care benefits, whether conveyed through marriage or other legally recognized relationships. Such a proposal runs afoul of basic principles of fairness and will do little but harm real children and real families in the process...."

"LCCR is particularly troubled by the virulent rhetoric of some organizations working to enact the proposed amendment, and their animus towards gays and lesbians. The attacks made by many of the most vocal proponents, such as the Traditional Values Coalition and the American Family Association, are disturbingly similar to the sorts of attacks that have been made upon other communities as they have attempted to assert their right to equal protection of the laws. This is, of course, an element of the debate that the civil rights community finds deeply disturbing, as should all fair-minded Americans." 1

bulletThe American Civil Liberties Union: The ACLU criticized the Senate Judiciary Committee for approving: "...a measure to amend the Constitution to deny marriage protections to gay and lesbian couples and their children."

  Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, said:

"The Senate Judiciary Committee today took another step towards to undermining the Constitution. Lawmakers rightly rejected this measure in 2004, but election year politics have resurrected this mean-spirited amendment. Congress must reject it again. Discrimination has no place in our nation?s founding document."

The vote was taken in a small room off of the Senate floor which was closed to the public. Christopher Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel, said:

"Senators should not vote to amend the constitution behind closed doors, in a room so small that the entire committee barely fits and senators don?t even have enough room to sit down. The nation?s founding fathers must be rolling over in their graves today with a Senate committee that hides from the public while rewriting the country?s most precious document. The nation deserves more from its Senate." 2

bulletThe National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: The NAACP strongly opposed the FMA during 2004/2005. 3 Julian Bond, Chairman of the Board of the NAACP defended SSM at the Third Annual Equality Maryland Jazz Brunch in Baltimore., MD. He said that marriage is a fundamental institution of civilization and that is "precisely why one should support, not oppose, gay marriage."

He noted that the NAACP has passed a resolution that promises:

"To pursue all legal and constitutional means to support non-discriminatory policies and practices against persons based on race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality or cultural background. Civil rights are positive legal prerogatives ? the right to equal treatment before the law. These are rights shared by all ? there is no one in the United States who does not ? or should not - share in these rights."

"The more civil rights are won by others, the stronger the army defending my rights becomes. My rights are not diluted when my neighbor enjoys protection from the law ? he or she becomes my ally in defending the rights we all share." 4

bulletClergy for Fairness: They are a coalition of leaders from Christian, Jewish and Sikh groups who are opposing the FMA. have sponsored an online open letter which has been signed by more than 1,600 clergy and will be sent to the Senate majority and minority leaders. Members of the Clergy for Fairness differ in their position on SSM and equal rights for gays, lesbians and bisexuals. However they agree that the amendment "reflects a fundamental disregard for individual civil rights and ignores differences among our nation's many religious traditions." The letter notes that religious marriage "will justly remain the prerogative of individual faith traditions in accordance with their doctrinal beliefs." They note that the Constitution has made no provision on marriage itself, thereby leaving the matter to the individual states. It says the amendment would enshrine a religious point of view into the U.S. Constitution and restrict civil rights.

The letter says, in part:

"Our nation's founders adopted the First Amendment precisely because they understood the dangers of allowing government to have control over religious doctrine and decisions. It is this commitment to religious freedom that has allowed religious practice and pluralism to flourish in America as nowhere else. If this freedom is to be maintained, we must respect the rights of faith communities to apply their own religious teachings and values to the issue of same-sex relationships. It is surely not the business of politicians to assert control over the doctrine and practice of our faith communities."

"The Marriage Protection Amendment would dignify discrimination and undermine religious liberty. America?s religious communities do not support this amendment. As leaders of these communities, we urge you to vote against any attempt to pass this Amendment." 5

Clergy supporting the petition come from the Alliance of Baptists; the American Jewish  Committee; the US Episcopal (Anglican) Church, the National Sikh Center; the Unitarian Universalist  Association of Congregations; and the United Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministries. 6 A total 2,068 clergy had signed the open letter by 2006-JUN-03. Their web site has sample sermons from clergy in a range of denominations and religions.

Support for the FMA:

bulletAlliance for Marriage: Its founder and president, Dr. Matt Daniels, said:

"The constitutional problem being created by almost a decade of activist lawsuits to destroy marriage demands a constitutional fix. AFM created the Marriage Protection Amendment in order to protect the common sense view of marriage shared by most Americans of every race, color and creed." 15

bulletProtestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox religious leaders support FMA: 51 American religious leaders signed a statement in support of the FMA. This included seventeen Roman Catholic bishops, four Rabbis, as well as some Greek Orthodox, Episcopal Church, Presbyterian, Evangelical and other religious leaders. Bishop William S. Skylstad, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has asked all the bishops and their laity to support the amendment.

Sen. Sam Brownback, (R-KS) said that public backing from religious leaders would ensure that the issue stays alive, even if the measure does not pass. He said:

"It helps our chances substantially over the long run to have these major church organizations behind us. They looked at the dire situation for marriage and the real possibility that the court is going to redefine marriage." 7

bulletThe Southern Baptist Convention (SBC): Kenyn Cureton, vice president for convention relations with the Executive Committee of the SBC said:

"They need to take the lead in equipping their churches to become what Jesus asks us to be. That is, the salt that stings and then heals, and also the light that shines [as] the only way that's hope for America, and that's Jesus. And so if the pastors will take the lead in equipping the congregations, then I think the congregations will rise up and let their voices be heard on this matter."

He links the decline in marriages in Scandinavian countries to the availability of civil unions to same-sex couples:

"All you need to do is look at Scandinavia to see what is going to happen in America if we allow the definition of marriage to be changed. In Scandinavia for the last ten years or so, maybe fifteen, they've allowed de facto gay marriage. As a result, in some places in Norway upwards of 80 percent of the children are being born into homes without a legally married mom and dad, [who are] just cohabiting." 14

bulletThe Family Research Council: Tony Perkins' asked more visitors to their web site to sign their marriage petition. With 28,000 signatures by late 2006-APR, they were only half their way to their goal. He wrote:

"In a case in New York, FRC has filed a brief arguing that marriage is by its nature reserved to one man and one woman, and that to permit same-sex couples to wed would be to destroy the institution's essential character...."

"The threat to traditional marriage is alive and well. We must send a clear and resounding message to the United States Senate demanding action to promote families with both a wife and a husband -- both a mother and a father. When the voices of concerned citizens are heard, action is taken. Just recently, Senator Mike DeWine [R-OH}... joined as a co-sponsor of the Marriage Protection Amendment, a victory for pro-family citizens."

"Help us to continue applying the necessary pressure. Please, if you haven't already done so, sign our Marriage Protection Petition so we can add your voice to the chorus asking Congress to protect the treasured institution of traditional marriage. May God bless you and your family." 8

The Council's Marriage Protection Pledge states:

"I, ______________________ , pledge to the families of the state of ___________________ , and to all the American people that I will protect the inviolable definition of marriage. I firmly believe this definition is as follows:

Marriage, whether entered into within or outside of the United States, shall consist of the legal union of one man and one woman. Every person has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex, subject to state laws based on age and consanguinity. The uniting of persons of the same or opposite sex in a civil union, domestic partnership or other similar relationship shall not be valid or recognized with any legal benefits or privileges in the United States." 9

Their goal is not the status quo. If the pledge's final sentence were implemented, it would abolish civil unions in Connecticut and Vermont, domestic partnerships in California, marriages in Massachusetts. It would view loving, committed, same-sex couples as simple roommates, and deprive them and their children of over 1,000 rights enjoyed automatically by opposite-sex couples. Unmarried opposite-sex couples would similarly be stripped of rights.

bulletThe American Family Association urges its visitors to send an Email to their senators. They state:

"Once homosexual marriage is legal, our religious liberties will be stripped away...."

"We expect Democratic senators to vote to kill the MPA. The public is not aware that the Democratic National Committee has given thousands of dollars to homosexual groups to help promote homosexual marriage."

"The groups supporting homosexual marriage have activist judges waiting to make homosexual marriage legal. It is expected that the Washington state Supreme Court will rule homosexual marriage legal as soon as the elections are over. Some feel the ruling has already been made, but they will not release it until after the November elections. They don?t want to hurt the pro-homosexual liberal nominees in the elections."

"Only a constitutional amendment will stop homosexual marriage from becoming the law of the land." 10

bulletCoral Ridge Ministries, a Fundamentalist Christian congregation that is actively opposed to equal rights for sexual minorities sent an "UrgentGram" on 2006-MAY-26. It states, in part:

"Today, I urgently need your help! Congress is scheduled to vote on the Marriage Protection Amendment in the first week of June. Click here to view the Marriage Protection Amendment. At this moment, specialists in Washington tell us there are not enough votes to pass this Amendment in the Senate. More Senators must be persuaded; our voices must be heard!"

"On June 5 we will be delivering all of the petitions to all 100 Senators in Washington, D.C. Your participation in this campaign is critical. I need to hear from you right away. Today, I ask you to help in two specific ways:
First, Please pray and add your name to the petition to preserve traditional marriage....
Second, I ask for your best gift to help make a bold stand and to continue all of our ministry outreaches."

"Thank you for your commitment to marriage. God bless you and God bless America."

bulletThe Family Research Council, one of the most powerful and influential Fundamentalist Christian advocacy groups in the U.S., appears to be having difficulty raising much interest among its supporters for the FMA. They set a relatively modest goal of only 50,000 signatures on a petition to preserve "traditional one-man/one woman marriage in America." Less than a week from the vote in the Senate, they have collected 37.000 signatures representing only about 0.02% of the adult American population. 11 This compares to the American Center for Law and Justice who have collected over 130,000 signatures on a petition to prevent a Christian cross from being removed from a military cemetery in San Diego, CA. 12
bulletOther support: According to the Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly Bulletin for 2006-JUN-02, the Knights of Columbus has distributed millions of postcards to Catholic parishes and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) has asked that a letter of support be read out to all of its congregations. The Southern Baptist Convention declared 2006-JUN-04 as Marriage Protection Sunday.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Oppose the 'Federal Marriage Amendment' (S.J. Res. 1)," Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, 2005-APR-12, at:  http://www.civilrights.org/
  2. "Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Discriminatory Constitutional Amendment, ACLU Denounces Amending the Constitution Behind Closed Doors," ACLU, 2006-MAY-18, at:  http://www.aclu.org/
  3. "NAACP Testimony in Opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment,"  NAACP, 2004-MAR-04, at: http://www.aclu.org/    http://www.aclu.org/
  4. "NAACP Board Chairman Bond Is Featured Speaker at Equality Maryland Jazz Brunch," NAACP, 2005-N0V-23, at: http://www.naacp.org/
  5. "An Open Letter to the U.S. Senate from America?s Clergy," Clergy for Fairness, at: http://www.clergyforfairness.org/
  6. "UCC joins Clergy for Fairness campaign to oppose Federal Marriage Amendment," United Church of Christ, 2006-MAY-26, at: http://news.ucc.org/
  7. "Cardinals Back Marriage Amendment," National Catholic Register, 2006-MAY-21-27, at: http://www.allianceformarriage.org/
  8. Tony Perkins, "Ask Congress to Put Children First - Sign our Marriage Petition," Family Research Council, 2006-APR-27, at: http://www.frc.org/
  9. "The Marriage Protection Pledge," Family Research Council, 2005-OCT-02, at: http://www.frc.org/
  10. "U.S. Senate To Vote On Homosexual Marriage June 6TH. The most important vote in the Senate this year! The future of our children is at stake," American Family Association, undated, at: http://www3.capwiz.com/
  11. "Voice Your Values for Marriage Before the Senate Votes!," Family Research Council mailing, 2006-MAY-30.
  12. ACLJ radio program, Sirius channel 159, week of 2006-JUN-02.
  13. "HRC poll shows marriage amendment not priority for voters," 2006-MAY-09, at: http://www.gayalliance.org/
  14. Allie Martin, Jody Brown, and Rusty Pugh," Agape Press, 2006-JUN-02, at: http://headlines.agapepress.org/
  15. "Leader Frist, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to Stand with AFM in Support of Marriage Amendment," Rominger Legal news advisory, 2006-MAY-24, at: http://www.romingerlegal.com/
  16. "List of Organizations Opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment," ACLU, 2004-FEB-25, at: http://www.aclu.org/

Copyright © 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2006-MAY-25
Latest update: 2006-JUN-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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