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Amendment activist

National | Amendment activist: America can't survive with two different definitions of marriage

Issue: "Iraq: The WMD debate," Feb. 21, 2004

Matt Daniels did not make it back to Boston for the commonwealth's retort to a judicial shot heard 'round the world. Nearly 300 journalists and about 3,700 citizens descended on the Massachusetts Statehouse last week, but Mr. Daniels, a Massachusetts native, chose to stay in Washington-where he heads the group Alliance for Marriage-and watch from afar. He says he becomes more certain every day that the gay-marriage showdown is going national. His Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) could well be the vehicle for forcing the issue into the U.S. Constitution.

In the ever-shifting political sands of this issue, Mr. Daniels thinks he's found bedrock in a broad-based coalition and a defense-of-marriage constitutional amendment with a states'-rights slant. But his carefully nuanced position initially proved more pragmatic than many on the right were comfortable with and more principled than some federalists were willing to readily accept.

Mr. Daniels figured, and rightly so, that gay activists would try to lay claim to the civil-rights legacy as they pressed their agenda. So Mr. Daniels began his efforts by lining up African-American churches in support of a gay-marriage ban, preempting any civil-rights posturing by the other side. He also wrote a caveat into his amendment, allowing states to decide the merits of arrangements that stop short of marriage, such as civil unions or domestic partnerships. That cut the legs out from under liberals who claim to oppose gay marriage but support equal benefits for gay couples.

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On the other hand, the compromise in the FMA worried some Christians, leading to the formation of the Arlington Group, which launched a version of the FMA without the civil-unions concession. Mr. Daniels insists there's no acrimony between the two groups. "There's been a constant drumbeat where they're urging me to speak negatively of other conservative groups," he says. "I'm constantly saying I'm here to speak positively."

To win approval, the amendment must pass with a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate, then gain simple majorities in three-quarters of the 50 state legislatures-in other words, 38 states. Since exactly 38 states have already approved defense-of-marriage acts, Mr. Daniels says he feels good about completing the traditionally difficult task of gaining the states' support. "The fight will be in the Senate," he predicts. "Marriage is such a fundamental. We can't hold together our union if we have two different definitions of marriage. We're going to have a common currency one way or another."

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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