Marriage Protection Amendment gains support, but Senate vote total is uncertain

WASHINGTON (BP)--A majority of the Senate supports the Marriage Protection Amendment, but the measure may not receive an up-or-down vote the week of June 5, leading advocates for the proposal have indicated.

Senators are scheduled to begin consideration of the constitutional amendment June 5, with a vote of some type expected June 6 or 7. The amendment, S.J. Res. 1, defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. The proposal is designed to protect the institution against continuing legal efforts to legalize “homosexual marriage.”

“It’s not clear whether we’ll have a direct vote or whether this will be a procedural vote when we get back [from the Memorial Day recess],” said Sen. Wayne Allard, R.-Colo., the amendment’s sponsor, at a May 25 news conference in the Capitol building. “The good news is we are continuing to see growing support for the Marriage Protection Amendment.”

That support amounts to “a majority in the Senate,” said Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage, at the news conference. “We have made progress since the last vote.”

The last vote was a procedural one in 2004 to limit debate and actually bring the amendment to the Senate floor for up-or-down action. The effort received only 48 votes of the 60 needed to end debate, or invoke cloture, as it is known.

For Senate approval, the amendment will need not only 60 votes to reach the floor, if opponents seek to block action, but 67 in an up-or-down vote (two-thirds approval).

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other backers of the amendment are urging Americans to contact their senators by June 6 to ask them to support it. They hope a massive outpouring of support for the amendment will produce the needed votes

The ERLC also is encouraging Southern Baptist churches to consider observing Marriage Protection Sunday June 4, and for pastors to address “same-sex marriage” that day and encourage church members to ask their senators to support the amendment.

Though Massachusetts is the only state to have legalized “same-sex marriage,” MPA supporters predict courts will continue to expand marriage to include homosexual couples unless a federal amendment is ratified to address the problem.

Supreme courts in New Jersey, New York and Washington could legitimize "gay marriage" before the end of the year, and the decision expected out of Washington state could be especially damaging, Daniels told reporters.

The Washington Supreme Court’s ruling is “expected to have a massive impact on the political landscape surrounding the debate over marriage,” Daniels said. “The reason is simple. The Washington state court is not going to impose any residency requirements. So, unlike Massachusetts [which does not permit same-sex couples from most other states to 'marry'], the Washington state decision will produce national, legal chaos.”

Even if the amendment is not approved by Congress this year, “our momentum will continue to grow,” Daniels said. “This is being driven by the court cases. The public pays attention to the extent that the [courts continue] to strike down marriage. The policies of this will be driven by the courts. There are about nine lawsuits pending. As they come down, public opinion will continue to awaken in our favor.”

A decision in a Georgia court May 16 seemed to validate the campaign for a federal amendment. A state judge ruled Georgia's marriage amendment, which was approved by 76 percent of voters in 2004, violates the state constitution. The amendment prohibits both “same-sex marriage” and Vermont-style civil unions.

Ratification of an amendment to the Constitution requires passage by two-thirds of both houses of Congress and approval by three-fourths of the states. The House of Representatives achieved a majority in 2004 with a 227-186 vote but fell far short of the votes needed for passage.

At the May 25 news conference, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, as well as Sens. George Allen, R.-Va., and David Vitter, R.-La., spoke in behalf of the amendment. Other backers of the proposal who spoke included multi-ethnic representatives of civil rights, evangelical, Roman Catholic and Jewish groups.

The text of the MPA says, “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.”

Southern Baptists and others may contact senators by calling the Capitol switchboard, (202) 224-3121, and asking for their offices. E-mails may be sent through the website of the Religious Coalition for Marriage, www.rcm.org, or the Senate’s Internet site, www.senate.gov.


For more information about the national debate over "gay marriage," visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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