Posted on May 19, 2006 | by Tom Strode
WASHINGTON (BP)--The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is asking Southern Baptist churches to consider observing Marriage Protection Sunday June 4, the eve of Senate debate on a constitutional amendment regarding the issue.
Senators are scheduled to begin consideration of the Marriage Protection Amendment June 5, with a floor vote expected June 6 or 7. The MPA, 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.”
The ERLC, the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy entity, is requesting pastors to address “same-sex marriage” June 4 and to encourage church members to ask their senators to support the amendment.
“Supporters of traditional marriage need to bombard their senators’ offices with e-mails and phone calls,” ERLC President Richard Land told Baptist Press, “and preachers across America need to let the pulpit ring forth in clear and no uncertain terms on Marriage Protection Sunday, June 4, and help create a groundswell of support for this amendment. I can assure you the opponents of traditional marriage are doing their best to let their voices be heard in the corridors of the Senate. It is up to us to let our voices be heard loudly as well.”
Massachusetts is the only state to have legalized “same-sex marriage,” but state supreme courts in New Jersey, New York and Washington could legitimize such unions before the end of the year.
The Senate Judiciary Committee sent the MPA to the full Senate in a 10-8 vote along party lines May 18, with Republicans in the majority. Two days before the committee’s vote, a decision in Georgia seemed to validate calls for a federal amendment. A state judge ruled May 16 that 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 homosexual civil unions.
The ERLC -- which is part of a diverse, pro-amendment coalition -- has utilized its Internet site, a collaborative mass mailing and conference phone calls to foster support for the measure.
On its website, the ERLC includes suggestions for the activities churches might consider for June 4:
-- Information on “same-sex marriage” could be distributed.
-- Pastors might preach on the issue.
-- Those in attendance could be encouraged to call or e-mail their senators June 5 or 6 to urge them to vote for the MPA.
The ERLC collaborated with Focus on the Family Action in April to urge Southern Baptist pastors to promote support for the amendment. In an April 12 letter to the 43,600-plus SBC churches, the ERLC’s Land and FOFA Chairman James Dobson asked pastors to involve congregations in the attempt to protect marriage. They promoted a postcard campaign as part of that effort.
Postcards are available on the ERLC website for downloading and copying, but the entity says a postcard-signing campaign will be helpful June 4 only if the cards can be hand-delivered to senators’ in-state offices the next day. Because of delays caused by the screening process for mail to Congress, it might already be too late to mail cards that would be opened in Senate offices by June 5.
The ERLC conducted conference calls recently with two groups in the SBC in the effort to build backing for the amendment: Ethics workers in state Baptist conventions May 12 and some mega-church pastors May 18.
The gravity of the issue calls for the effort the ERLC is making to mobilize Southern Baptists, said Barrett Duke, the entity’s vice president for public policy and research.
“We just don’t see anything in American life at this point that has greater implications for our culture than the same-sex marriage issue,” Duke told BP. “Just about every area of life will be impacted if same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land.”
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. Support in the Senate will have to increase markedly from two years ago to reach the two-thirds majority needed to approve a constitutional amendment. Neither house of Congress came close to a two-thirds majority during votes in 2004.
That year, the Senate failed even to give an up-or-down vote to a similar amendment. Supporters gained only 48 of the 60 votes needed to halt debate and allow a vote, a procedure called invoking cloture. Fifty senators voted against cloture. Also in 2004, the House of Representatives achieved a majority with a 227-186 vote but fell far short of the votes needed for passage.
The ERLC hopes a massive outpouring of support for the amendment by Southern Baptists and others will produce the extra votes, Duke said.
“We certainly don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t have more votes this time than last time,” he said. “The Senate is decidedly more conservative, certainly more Republican, than it was the last time. We believe that if enough senators hear from their constituents, the MPA can be passed. It’s obvious that a significant majority of Americans throughout the country do not want same-sex marriage. If that significant majority will communicate their convictions to their senators, the amendment should be passed.”
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 a link on the ERLC’s website, www.faithandfamily.com, or the Senate’s Internet site, www.senate.gov.
The text of the MPA 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.”
For more information about the national debate over "gay marriage," visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage