Marriage Amendment Debated
by Michael J. McManus
This week the U.S. Senate debated the Marriage Protection Amendment for three
days. As it began, belatedly, President Bush weighed in with why the Amendment
"Marriage is the most fundamental institution of civilization, and it should not
be redefined by activist judges. Since 2004 state courts in Washington and
California and Maryland and New York have ruled against marriage laws. Last year
a federal judge in Nebraska overturned a state constitutional amendment banning
same-sex marriage, an amendment that was approved by 70 percent of the
However, he was ignored by the press. If his statement had any visibility,
journalists muttered he was only trying to appeal to his "right wing base."
On the Senate floor Sen. Richard Durbin agreed, "It's not about preservation of
marriage. It's about the preservation of the majority, the Republican majority.
That's the `M' word that's behind this debate." He noted a poll found it ranked
only 33rd in importance.
But if asked whether they support gay marriage, three-fifths of Americans say
no, and a majority in a Gallup Poll support the Amendment.
Further, a new Religious Coalition for Marriage backed it, that goes far beyond
Southern Baptists and other evangelicals. It included eight Catholic Cardinals,
the African-American Church of God in Christ and the Union of Orthodox Jewish
Congregations of America. Others: Mormons (The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints), Missouri Synod Lutherans, plus Greek and Russian Orthodox
These denominations involve 100 million members.
"This is unprecedented," said Princeton Prof. Robert George, a key organizer.
"Despite historical theological divisions, (we) are saying with a united voice
that we do not want to go where activist judges have taken us. I hope we are
sending a message to the politicians from the religious people of America."
"Robby" George was also an activist behind a second initiative: 50 distinguished
scholars also issued a landmark paper, "Marriage and the Public Good: Ten
They argued that the case for marriage as the union of a man and a woman "can
be made and won at the level of reason. Marriage protects children, men and
women and the common good." It offers "men and women as spouses a good they can
have in no other way: a mutual and complete giving of the self." To see it go to
The scholars added, "Law and public policy will either reinforce and support
these goals or undermine them." Therefore, they also called for divorce law
reforms, ending marriage penalties for low-income Americans and protecting
children "from the fertility industry" by limiting in vitro fertilization to
Democratic Senators stoutly opposed the Amendment. "A vote for this amendment is
a vote for bigotry - pure and simple," argued Sen. Ted Kennedy. He noted that
Massachusetts has had 8,000 gay marriages but also has America's lowest divorce
rate. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid asserted the amendment would "write
discrimination into the Constitution."
By contrast, Sen. Sam Brownback cogently argued: "This issue is going to be
defined by either the courts or the legislative bodies, period. We seek to have
it defined by legislative bodies. If the courts do it, they will define marriage
as any sort of relationship anyone wants to have. That will hurt children and
define marriage out of existence. This is not an issue of bigotry. It is an
issue of the family."
Minutes before the vote, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions reported that Alabama voted
Tuesday by 81 percent to adopt a one man, one woman constitutional amendment,
the 20th state to do so. However, one judge can invalidate it, as one did in
At a press conference outside the Senate, African-American Bishop Harry Jackson
lamented, "In 1970 two-thirds of African-Americans were in monogamous marital
relationships. By 2000 we had dropped to only about a third of black families in
those committed relationships.
"In the countries that have experimented with same-sex marriage - Sweden and the
Netherlands - there has been an increase of out-of-wedlock births, and declining
marriage, all the things happening to the black community today. If we don't do
something, we may face an America in ten years where only one out of every ten
children is born to an intact family. We don't want an America like that."
However, the vote was 49-48 - not the 60 needed to close debate and force a
vote, or 67 needed to pass an Amendment.
Perhaps the Supreme Court itself will have to approve gay marriage for an Amendment
to get a two-thirds vote in Congress.
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same sex marriage,
abortion and infanticide,