“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute — where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be a Catholic) how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote … I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish — where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or other ecclesiastical source.”
— Senator John F. Kennedy, 1960
when he was a running for president
The proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution:
“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.”
Federal Marriage Amendment - 2003 version
“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.”
Federal Marriage Amendment - 2006 version
If an amendment becomes law, it would duplicate part of the 1996 “DoMA” law.
[See our article: DoMA]
Until the DoMA law, the Federal system had never defined who is eligible for legal marriage, that right has always been with the states. The FMA would again place the definition of marriage in the domain of federal law. That shift in governmental power, from the states to the federal government, flies in the face of the right wing’s historical, constant, rallying cry for a smaller, less intrusive government.
Because the amendment is so broadly worded, it could also pave the way for dismantling all other contracts between same- as well for non-married, opposite-sex couples, such as domestic partnership status for workplace benefits, hospital visitations, and Civil Unions.
[See: Vermont: Civil Union]
With the phrase “marriage or the legal incidents thereof,” the amendment could destroy a wide range of rights, including state and local civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination based on marital status, protecting elderly couples who refrain from marrying in order to retain pensions, and even laws allowing a person, in the absence of a spouse, to oppose the autopsy of a close friend because of the deceased person’s religious beliefs.
The amendment could prohibit states from expanding civil rights. It could have the effect of forbidding states from serving their traditional role as testing grounds for stronger civil rights laws.
The only other Constitutional amendment that took American rights — rather than defending our freedoms — was that of the anti-alcohol law of the Prohibition. That was the 18th Amendment, which was ratified in 1919 and repealed 14 years later by the 21st Amendment in 1933.
That law, was aimed at a drug. No amendment has ever been introduced that took away rights from an entire class of American citizens.
To amend the Constitution, a bill must be passed by two-thirds of the U.S. House and Senate, as well as being ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures.
Historically, it has been extremely difficult to pass an amendment. However, anti-marriage laws have already been passed in many state legislatures.
[See: Legislative Reactions to Legal Marriage]
And right-wing theocrats continue to paint gay and lesbian citizens as being non-human, and not deserving of equal treatment.
The bill was first presented in 2002 by Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-CO) and Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO).
Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO), re-introduced the bill on May 21, 2003, which was called H.J. Res. 56, and became known as the “Federal Marriage Amendment” (FMA).
As of November 2003, it had 100 co-sponsors. No hearings were held on the measure.
On November 25, 2003, an amendment bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colorado), and four Republican co-sponsors.
In the summer of 2004, the amendment failed in the Senate, on a 48-50 vote. However, that vote was not technically on the amendment itself. Rather, it was on a GOP motion to invoke cloture following a Democratic-led filibuster.
Now that Republicans have increased their majority, the amendment has collected more support. If all senators vote the way they did in 2004 and the freshmen vote as expected, the 2006 bill will attract 52 votes, which is still well short of the 67 needed to amend the Constitution.
First-term Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and David Vitter (R-La.) have all co-sponsored the amendment. These four legislators replaced Democrats who voted against the amendment in 2004.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who won the seat vacated by Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), has also co-sponsored the legislation. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Edwards, who opted not to return from the campaign trail to vote on the amendment, are opposed to it.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) does not support the amendment. He won the seat of retired Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.), who voted for the 2004 amendment.
Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) also plans to vote against the measure. He replaced Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), one of six Republicans who voted against it in 2004.
Right-wing extremists have worked for decades to dismantle the rights of same-sex couples to such rights as job benefits and custody for their children, and have pushed very hard for an anti-marriage Constitutional amendment.
Spurred by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in September 2003 that gay and lesbian Americans shouldn’t be thrown in jail simply because of who they are, people like Jerry Falwell, Senate Majority leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), and Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania have reacted with the terror that Americans might not share their intolerance. They require an amendment to Constitutionally codify their personal, religious beliefs, and deny civil rights and equal benefits to millions of citizens.
This statement assumes equal treatment removes rights from others. It also labels same-sex relationships as sub-human by calling them “counterfeit.”:
“Marriage and family are the most important institutions in existence. Unfortunately, they have come under attack. The traditional values Americans hold are being traded in for counterfeit marital unions. It is important to secure this institution and protect it from distortion.”
Assuming inferiority based on orientation:
— Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colorado)
Washington Times, May 26, 2003
“The legalization of same-sex marriages (or ‘civil unions’ or ‘domestic partnerships’) would severely damage the public institution of marriage. It would send a false message that same-sex unions are equivalent to marriage, that same-sex relations and marriage contribute equally to individual and social stability and happiness. It would connote that all sexual relationships deserve the same legal treatment as marriages.”
This statement repudiates the American legal system of checks and balances:
— Lynn D. Wardle, professor of law, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
Salt Lake Tribune, August 10, 2003
“My personal feelings are a marriage is between a man and a woman. Same-sex couples should not be eligible for partner benefits or any other privileges that come with marriage.”
— Rep. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia)
Southern Voice (Atlanta), August 7, 2003
“The question for the American people is whether we are willing to let the institution of marriage be redefined by a few un-elected, unaccountable judges — or should our strong preference to preserve traditional marriage be respected and defended.”
Forces one particular religious vlue system onto civil law:
— Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colorado)
USA Today, August 5, 2003
“I am dedicating my talents, time and energies over the next few years to the passage of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which will protect the traditional family from its enemies who wish to legalize same-sex marriage and other diverse ‘family’ forms.
This thought forces a religion onto American civil law, and creates second-class citizens:
“It is imperative that we remove the sacred biblical definition of marriage from the reach of un-elected and valueless federal judges who would seek to protect newly fashionable sexual trends by recklessly affording them with legal protections.
“We must not allow our children and children’s children to grow up in a nation with legalized polygamy, common-law marriage, and same-sex marriage. The only way to put the traditional and biblical family form of one man married to one woman safely out of the reach of future courts and legislatures is to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
— Rev. Jerry Falwell
Reported in the and elsewhere
“Catholic politicians have a moral duty to oppose laws granting legal rights to gay couples.”
— Pope John Paul II
the Vatican, July 2003
I am mindful that we’re all sinners, and I caution those who may try to take the speck out of their neighbor’s eye when they got a log in their own. I think it’s very important for our society to respect each individual, to welcome those with good hearts, to be a welcoming country. On the other hand, that does not mean that somebody like me needs to compromise on an issue such as marriage. And that’s really where the issue is heading here in Washington, and that is the definition of marriage. I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman. And I think we ought to codify that one way or the other. And we’ve got lawyers looking at the best way to do that.
— U.S. President George W. Bush
White House press conference, July 30, 2003
Support for Legal Marriage
Responding to banning same-sex marriage:
“How is the recognition that another person is in a caring, loving, committed relationship with a lifetime partner — how does that in any way diminish or undermine or threaten the marriage that another person is in?”
Responses to the Pope:
— David Cicilline, Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island
Providence Journal, August 10, 2003
“I see the policy of opposing same-sex marriages or unions, whatever you call it, as bigotry or discrimination. We are talking about the law here, and whether the law is going to treat people equally. I don’t see where the church, or anyone else, dictates what the policy is going to be with respect to treating people equally. … The very foundation of the church is about love. This notion of discrimination is so far afield of what Jesus’ life is all about.”
Responding to the president:
— Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-Rhode Island)
Providence Journal, August 6, 2003
“Faced with bad news on virtually every important policy front — Iraq, North Korea, Liberia, the deficit, unemployment, congressional deadlock on prescription drugs — President Bush has taken the advice of his chief advisor, Mr. Rove, and tried to change the subject, even though it means repudiating a position taken by vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney at the height of the presidential campaign.
“Incredibly, Mr. Bush is trying to persuade the country that instead of persistent high unemployment, one trillion dollars in new federal debt over the next two years, continued American deaths in Iraq, unhindered progress towards a North Korean nuclear capacity and a bogging down on his agenda in Congress, Americans should be seriously worried about the prospect that two men who love each other might be allowed to become legally and financially responsible for each other.
“If the tactic seems familiar, it’s because it is. In 1996, faced with Bill Clinton’s popularity, the Republicans rolled out the Defense of Marriage Act, asserting — wholly falsely it is now clear — that a tidal wave of gay marriages was about to surge out of Hawaii and engulf America.
“With President Bush’s popularity dropping and the serious problems confronting America worsening, the Administration seeks to divert attention by demagoguing on the issue of same-sex unions. This is a far cry from October of 2000 when, seeking votes from supporters of equal rights, Dick Cheney told a national television audience that the question of same-sex relationships should be left to the states, and that there should be no federal policy on the matter.
“Now, with the votes gained from that appeal safely in hand, and with political troubles mounting, Mr. Rove has prescribed a little demagogic dishonesty. As with the war in Iraq, we are now told that Mr. Cheney’s campaign assertion is to be filed under the heading of ‘never mind,’ and the American people are to be persuaded that repelling the threat of same-sex couples rivals unemployment, trillions in new debt, and a quagmire in Iraq as problems facing the nation.”
— Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts)
press release, July 31, 2003
Often, the Bible is invoked to support a particular viewpoint, at the same time, other parts of the Bible are ignored. For instance, how many theocrats subscribe to the following biblical laws?
- Marriage shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women.
— Genesis 29:17-28
- Marriage shall not impede a man’s right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives.
— II Samuel 5:13 and II Chronicles 11:13
- Marriage is considered valid only if the the wife is a virgin. If she is not a virgin, she shall be executed.
— Deuteronomy 22:13
- Marriage between a believer and non-believer is forbidden.
— Genesis 24:3
- Since there is no law that can change things, divorce is not possible.
— Genesis 38:6-10
- If a married man dies, his brother must marry his sister-in-law.
— Deuteronomy 25:5-10
Lately, there has been a lot of Web-based petitions, surveys, and polls on this issue. They are not considered scientific data-collecting methods, and are usually not taken seriously by social scientists or politicians. A major reason for this is that the participants cannot be verified as valid individuals.
Web petitions simply do not meet the barest of scientific replication standards. Politicians usually rely on direct communication, such as letters, from constituents, as well as on polls managed by professionals who use telephone and other personal interview techniques.
Internet surveys and petitions are usually designed with the goal of bringing traffic to their owner’s Web site, in order to sell ad space.
Because of these reasons, we encourage the writing of letters to our congressional representatives, rather than try to stuff the Web site survey boxes. And, because of the current germ paranoia, a fax or e-mail may be better than sending an envelope.
Please see our article of genuine, non-Web surveys: Legal Marriage Surveys in the U.S.
We would strongly recommend you write, fax, or e-mail directly to your state and federal representatives and senators. Tell them you support equal treatment for all citizens, regardless of orientation, and that includes creating anti-discrimination laws and full civil marriage equality.
Our article on former Republican president G. W. Bush’s demands for an anti-gay Constitutional amendment: “Constitutional Constriction”