April 24, 2004
Support for Federal Marriage Amendment Grows
This week an Oregon judge gave advocates of
gay marriage an historic victory - the
nation's first recognition of same-sex marriages.
Multnomah County Circuit Judge Frank Bearden told the
county to stop issuing licenses
for same-sex marriages. But he ordered Oregon's legislature to
recognize the 3,022 marriage licenses issued since March 3 to gay
couples, and to pass a new law legalizing same-sex unions.
Does this sound familiar?
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in
November that gay couples have the right to marry and ordered the state legislature to make same-sex marriages
possible within 180 days. The magic day is May 17, when Massachusetts
is slated to begin allowing gay marriage.
The legislature did not do as it was told. It
began the process of passing a constitutional
amendment limiting marriage to the union of a man and a woman. But the
amendment would also legalize civil same-sex unions, which is marriage by
However, to be adopted, it must re-pass the legislature
in 2005 and then be approved by
the voters in a 2006 referendum. Gov. Mitt Romney asked the state's highest
court to stay its
order, pending full Massachusetts acceptance or rejection of the amendment.
That's unlikely. The state's Attorney General, a Democrat, supports
the court decision, while Romney is a Republican.
What's common to both cases is fierce judicial
activism, in which a court orders the
legislature to pass a law granting same-sex couples either the right of
marriage or civil union. In studying American history, I learned it is the
job of elected leaders to pass laws, and for the courts to interpret them.
On this issue, however, elected leaders have also acted
illegally. San Francisco's mayor
ordered city clerks to grant homosexual and lesbian couples marriage
licenses, though Californians voted in a referendum that marriage is between
a man and a woman.
One prescient man foresaw these developments and
developed a long-shot answer - a U.S. Federal Marriage Amendment that states
"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 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."
Matt Daniels is the man of the hour. Although white, he grew up in Spanish Harlem as a
son of a father who deserted his mother when he was only two.
"My growing up was miserable," he told USA Today. His
father was "a gifted and
irresponsible aspiring writer." His mother was a secretary until she was
mugged and left disabled, depressed and on welfare. "Things would have
been different if my father had been around." Matt was also attacked at
knifepoint and gunpoint.
No wonder Matt Daniels says, "Marriage is the key to
reducing the high levels of youth
crime and child poverty, caused by the epidemic of fatherless families in
America." Inspired by his mother, he excelled at school, won a
scholarship to Dartmouth and became a lawyer.
He created the Alliance for Marriage to craft a Federal
Marriage Amendment several years ago. Anticipating the argument that
gay marriage is a civil rights issue, he first won the backing of Rev. Walter Fauntroy, a former aide to Martin Luther King, Jr. Black
denominations were his first national supporters. He now has the
backing of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National
Association of Evangelicals.
It was a brilliant strategy. Today a higher percentage
of Hispanics and African-Americans
say that marriage is the union of a man and a woman - than whites. And
public support for the Federal Marriage Amendment has grown from 55 percent
last July to 64 percent.
Equally important, President Bush has given his
support, as have 118 Members of
Congress and leading U.S. Senators such as Majority Leader Bill Frist.
However, the amendment is opposed by such conservative
groups as Concerned Women
for America. Its president, Janet LaRue, is concerned that the amendment
would allow states "to create marriage in another name, a phony marriage."
Vermont's law permitting same sex civil unions would be untouched by the
Finally, few Democrats in the House or Senate
co-sponsor the amendment that must win
the support of two-thirds of Congress.
So far, the public seems apathetic. Few have
called or written Congress.
Gay marriage is not inevitable, but it is likely unless
an aroused public demands the
constitutional protection of marriage.
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