Cover Story

Court's Eye for the married guy

"Court's Eye for the married guy" Continued...

Issue: "Gay marriage backlash," Dec. 6, 2003

Why is a constitutional amendment necessary when 37 states and the U.S. Congress have in recent years passed "DOMA" (Defense of Marriage Act) laws that define marriage along traditional lines? First, the federal DOMA, signed into law by President Clinton, cannot prevent activist state judges from interpreting their own constitutions to allow same-sex marriage, as in Goodrich-or at least to confer marital benefits on homosexual couples, as in Baker, a 2000 case in Vermont. Second, according to AFM, the federal DOMA does not prevent states from recognizing foreign same-sex marriages. Third, loose constructionist U.S. Supreme Court justices down the road could follow the path of their Massachusetts counterparts and turn established marital law upside down.

Leading up to the Goodrich decision, 96 members of Congress had co-sponsored AFM's marriage amendment. Within days after Goodrich, 11 more lawmakers quickly signed on. "A lot of people didn't realize the gravity of the situation" until after the court decision, said Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), an original co-sponsor. "Sometimes it takes something like this to jolt people into action." H.J. Res. 56 co-sponsors include seven other Democrats: Lincoln Davis (Tenn.); Ralph Hall (Texas); Ken Lucas (Ky.); Collin Peterson (Minn.); Charles Stenholm (Texas); Gene Taylor (Miss.); and Rodney Alexander (La.).

Does AFM's amendment go far enough? American Family Association head Don Wildmon, who is "hopeful that the Massachusetts Supreme Court slapped American Christians in their face and woke them up," argues that AFM's amendment "would protect marriage in name only. Some people would argue with me on that." AFM's Mr. Daniels would: "It's our view that given what we know about the politics of this issue at the state level and in Congress, that it is not politically possible to take away the existing authority of state legislatures over questions of [marital] benefits. We do have a very real chance to amend the Constitution to save marriage, but we can only succeed if we work within the realm of what is politically viable."

Leaders of several conservative, pro-family groups, dubbed the "Arlington Group," have for months prior to the ruling met to hammer out strategies for dealing with the gay assault on traditional marriage. The consortium includes Family Research Council (FRC), Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, God's World Publications (the company that owns WORLD magazine), American Family Association, Empower America, Eagle Forum, and other groups. The leaders have discussed whether to craft a constitutional amendment that simply defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, or whether to buttress it with language that would prohibit states from approving same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships.

Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana lawmaker who in September took the helm of FRC specifically to fight for traditional marriage, said the consensus of the Arlington Group was to work "to get the strongest language possible"-but definitions of possible differ. As H.J. Res. 56 works its way through the House (Rep. McIntyre told WORLD he expects no action until early February), the Arlington Group is hoping GOP leaders will introduce their amendment in the Senate as soon as lawmakers return from holiday hiatus.

Meanwhile, other groups are also working quickly. For example, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Goodrich and now is working with members of Congress on strategies for protecting traditional marriage. "We are not trying to be liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat," said OU public-policy director Nathan Diament. "We are trying to translate Jewish tradition and values into the current context of public-policy discussion."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is capturing the attention of parishioners with a Q & A pamphlet that educates lay people on the topic of gay marriage. The pamphlet reflects the strong statement affirming traditional marriage that the conference issued in November. "What people had previously presumed everyone understood as a general ethic is now called into question," USCCB spokesperson Sister Mary Ann Walsh said of the impact of Goodrich. "Twenty-five years ago, there was no question about redefining marriage. Now people need assistance formulating an understanding of the issue. The [Catholic] church wants to make sure people are educated."

Walter Fauntroy, founder and president of the National Black Leadership Round Table, wishes the "gay marriage" issue would just go away. A Democrat and 10-term former congressman from the District of Columbia who worked with Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Fauntroy lives in inner-city D.C. and says, "I resent having to waste my time discussing it when there are people outside my door who don't have jobs." But discuss it he must, Mr. Fauntroy says, since the debate "merits a response from all people, conservatives and liberals, who are concerned about a civil society. The institution of marriage in human history has always been for the purpose of procreation and socialization." Two people of the same sex, he said, can't fill either bill.


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