Bush urges Congress to put amendment in ‘hands’ of the people

WASHINGTON (BP)--President Bush urged Congress June 5 to approve a constitutional amendment to protect marriage “so we can take this issue out of the hands of over-reaching judges and put it back where it belongs -- in the hands of the American people.”

Speaking at the White House, Bush again endorsed the Marriage Protection Amendment (MPA), this time on the same day the Senate began debating the proposal. The president delivered similar remarks in support of the measure in his weekly radio address June 3.

Senators are expected to hold a vote regarding S.J. Res. 1 by June 7. The amendment would define marriage as the union of a man and a woman in an attempt to protect the institution against continuing legal efforts to legalize “gay marriage.”

An amendment requires approval by a two-thirds majority in each house of Congress before it goes to the states. Three-fourths of the states must pass an amendment before it becomes part of the Constitution.

“Marriage is the most fundamental institution of civilization, and it should not be redefined by activist judges,” Bush told the gathering of amendment supporters.

“An amendment to the Constitution is necessary because activist courts have left our nation with no other choice,” he said in a 10-minute speech. “When judges insist on imposing their arbitrary will on the people, the only alternative left to the people is an amendment to the Constitution, the only law a court cannot overturn.”

Nineteen states have approved amendments to define marriage as between a man and a woman, and those measures have passed with an average of more than 70 percent in support. The voters of Alabama will consider such a proposal June 6, and at least six more states are expected to vote on marriage amendments in November.

“Today, 45 of the 50 states have either a state constitutional amendment or statute defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman,” the president said. “These amendments and laws express a broad consensus in our country for protecting the institution of marriage.

“Unfortunately, this consensus is being undermined by activist judges and local officials who have struck down state laws protecting marriage and made an aggressive attempt to redefine marriage,” he said.

Southern Baptist public policy leader Richard Land, who attended Bush’s speech, said the president again had demonstrated in his radio address and White House remarks he grasps the crucial issues involved.

“Two absolutely critical elements of our society are at stake in this debate,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “The first is the definition of marriage. Marriage is the basic building block of human society. If we allow the federal judiciary to redefine it, it will shatter the definition beyond recognition, and it will have disastrous effects on marriage, on children and on society.

“Our forefathers reserved to the American people, not American judges, the right to determine social policy for the nation,” he said. “And when the judges get it wrong, our forefathers gave us a method to give the judges further instruction on how we would be governed. It’s called a constitutional amendment.

“The second issue that the president clearly understands is that what’s at stake here is not only marriage but ‘government of the people, by the people’ and ‘for the people,’ Land said, citing Abraham Lincoln’s words from the Gettysburg Address. “The American people in significant majorities have made it amply clear they do not want same-sex marriage. And yet, judiciaries at the state and federal level are trying to force upon the American people something they find abhorrent. So what’s at stake is simply this: Are we going to continue to have ‘government of the people, by the people’ and ‘for the people,’ or government of the judges, by the judges and for the judges. The president believes it ought to be the people.”

Senate approval of the MPA appears unlikely this year. In 2004, senators cast a procedural vote to limit debate and actually bring the amendment to the 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.

The ERLC and other backers of the MPA have encouraged Americans to contact their senators by June 6 to ask them to support the amendment. They hope a massive outpouring of support for the amendment will produce the needed votes

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. High courts in New Jersey, New York and Washington could legitimize same-sex unions before the end of the year.

State courts in California, Georgia, Maryland, New York and Washington have overturned laws or amendments protecting marriage, and a federal judge in Nebraska invalidated a state amendment prohibiting “same-sex marriage.”

“Some argue that defining marriage should be left to the states,” Bush said. “The fact is, state legislatures are trying to address this issue. But across the country, they are being thwarted by activist judges who are overturning the expressed will of their people.

“A constitutional amendment would not take this issue away from the states, as some have argued. It would take the issue away from the courts and put it directly before the American people.”

While Americans “are free to choose how they live their lives,” decisions about an institution as important to society as marriage is “should be made by the people,” Bush said.

“The union of a man and woman in marriage is the most enduring and important human institution,” he said. “For ages, in every culture, human beings have understood that marriage is critical to the well-being of families. And because families pass along values and shape character, marriage is also critical to the health of society. Our policies should aim to strengthen families, not undermine them. And changing the definition of marriage would undermine the family structure.”

With reporting by Michael Foust.

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

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