Proposed Constitutional amendment seeks to define traditional marriage
WASHINGTON (BP)--Determined to block the courts from legalizing homosexual marriage, a coalition of minority and religious leaders unveiled plans Thursday to wed traditional marriage with the U.S. Constitution.
The Alliance for Marriage is proposing the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would define matrimony as a union between one man and one woman as a once-and-for-all standard that supporters hope will keep activist judges from giving homosexual partners full marital status, according to a report in CNSNews.com.
"Let the homosexual community play by the same rules and go through the democratic process," said Matt Daniels, executive director of Alliance for Marriage.
The amendment, which would require the approval of both houses of Congress and the legislatures of 38 states for ratification, would add constitutional validity to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), as well as traditional-marriage laws on the books of 34 states, CNSNews.com reported.
The measure, dubbed a "nuclear bomb" by one critic, has enraged homosexual activists, who see the proposal as a mean-spirited attack on Vermont's civil-unions law.
"This organization is intending to, in our view, write out gay and lesbians from the constitution," said David Smith, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign.
The Alliance for Marriage insists, however, that under the new law voters and state legislatures, not the courts, could authorize civil unions. Whether homosexual couples could receive full marriage benefits is a "gray area," Daniels said.
"Gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose," Daniels said. "They don't have a right to redefine marriage in the courts. There's nothing hateful about that."
While the Alliance for Marriage wouldn't reveal the names of its congressional advocates, supporters are optimistic about the amendment's broad appeal.
"We have people on both sides of the aisle that are supporters," Daniels said.
The amendment, co-authored by professors Mary Ann Glendon, of Harvard Law School, and Robert George, of Princeton University, reads:
"Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. 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."
For Daniels, promoting marriage is a personal matter. He was raised by a single mother in New York's Spanish Harlem.
Now he has courted the support of a diverse group of ethnic and religious leaders, including such civil rights luminaries as Rev. Walter Fauntroy, who organized Martin Luther King Jr.'s famed march on Washington.
Among others, the alliance's board includes representatives from the Chinese Community Church of Washington, the Alianza Misterial Evangelica Nacional, the Korean Central Presbyterian Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
The most prominent bloc of supporters are black clergy, some of whom, like Fauntroy, blame the social ills in inner-city black communities on escalating numbers of fatherless families. As many as 80 percent of African-American children are born out of wedlock, Fauntroy said.
"If we don't do something about this pandemic, we will soon be back to the slavery era when 100 percent of our children were born into a system that was based upon the destruction of the nuclear family," Fauntroy added.
While supporters tried to downplay the amendment's impact on homosexuals, a wide range of critics, from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Organization for Women, condemned it as extreme bigotry.
"This amendment is the legal equivalent of a nuclear bomb," said Christopher Anders, an ACLU legislative lawyer. "It will wipe out every single law protecting gay and lesbian families and other unmarried couples."
Anders said the Federal Marriage Amendment would contradict a stance Vice President Dick Cheney took during the 2000 campaign. At a debate with Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, Cheney responded to a question about same-sex marriage: "I think different states are likely to come to different conclusions, and that's appropriate. I don't think there should necessarily be federal policy in this area."
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Wednesday he hasn't discussed the proposed amendment with President George W. Bush.
Lewis is a correspondent with CNSNews.com. Used by permission.