During the week of July 11, the phone lines were burning up in Washington, D.C. and in Senate district offices all over the nation. The issue was the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA). Spurred on by such organizations as the Alliance for Marriage, Focus on the Family, and Mayday for Marriage, Christians all over the nation were enraged that senators were not jumping on the bandwagon and championing this constitutional amendment that reads, simply:
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.
What callers found was a resistance to the amendment, even from some conservative senators. Two reasons were most commonly given. Some senators claimed that the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 already protected marriage in the individual states. Others claimed to be against the amendment because they thought it was too big a compromise, eliminating marriage for homosexuals but allowing for civil unions. Few senators have said they favor homosexual marriage.
Christians Divided Over Proper Course
Christians should not have been surprised at these answers. The opposition exists not only at the Congressional level. Many sincere Christians find themselves opposed to the amendment for these same two reasons. Large Christian organizations and influential Christian leaders do not unanimously support the amendment. And, though a very small percentage of the population, homosexuals wield an inordinate amount of political influence, in part because they vote, they lobby, and they spend money.1
On July 14, the Senate, while not voting directly on the FMA, effectively killed it. On a procedural vote, senators voted against taking a vote on the measure itself. Only 48 senators voted to end debate and vote on the merits of the bill. This mirrors the way the Massachusetts legislature failed to deal with the issue:2 In two successive Constitutional Conventions, the House and Senate, meeting jointly, refused to vote on the proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have defined marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman.
The Battle Continues
The battle, however, has not ended. On July 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Marriage Protection Act (HR 3313). This measure, if enacted, would prohibit federal judges from creating their own legislation regarding marriage. The bill passed by a margin of 233 to 194, but once again sponsors face an uphill battle in the Senate.
Christian activists, while applauding the passage of HR 3313, insist that it is merely a stopgap measure. The day after the vote, for instance, the Family Research Council issued a statement:
We applaud the House for passing this bill. However, because it is only a statute, like the Defense of Marriage Act, this measure is vulnerable to being struck down by an activist judge. For that reason, we will continue to push for both the House and Senate to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution protecting marriage. Only then will the hands of activist judges at all levels be tied.
Matt Daniels Ready for Long Crusade
Firmly ensconced in the middle of this debate is Matt Daniels, founder of the Alliance for Marriage (www.allianceformarriage.org), and former head of the Massachusetts Family Institute. Daniels, a lawyer and pro-family activist, is generally credited with writing the Federal Marriage Amendment. A realist, Daniels knows the battle will be protracted. He told reporters, after the procedural vote on July 14, “We never expected to win, ever.”3 He expects, however, that the issue will come back after the elections in November. In a press release about the FMA, Daniels wrote that the:
Senate vote marks the start of a democratic debate that AFM hoped to create when we drafted our marriage amendment over three years ago. We introduced our marriage amendment in both the House and Senate in order to let the people decide the future of marriage and our amendment will continue to gain ground so long as activists continue to strike down our marriage laws in court.
In the meantime, Daniels wants to get the mainstream media to tell the truth. The media, he says, always portray the issue negatively. It’s always referred to as “anti-homosexual marriage.” In contrast, Daniels has always stated that the FMA and related efforts are not attempts to ban anything, but are rather aimed at preserving traditional marriage.
Many Organizations Looking Toward the Fall
Pro-family groups all around the country are organizing rallies this fall. Many statewide organizations will rally for pro-family legislation in their own states. Perhaps the largest event will be organized by Mayday for Marriage (www.maydayformarriage.com). Following their very successful rally at Safeco Field in Seattle, which brought approximately 20,000 people out to hear pro-family speakers on May 1, MFM has planned a national rally on October 15 at the National Mall in Washington, DC.
A Call to Action
Many surveys have indicated that Americans are overwhelmingly against the institutionalization of homosexual marriage. It’s obviously time for them to step up and make themselves heard. The mainstream media is not reporting their beliefs, their legislators are not heeding their warnings — and the nation is plowing full-steam-ahead toward Sodom.
While some pastors and heads of Christian non-profit organizations fear the loss of tax breaks and government grants and so do not speak out, the nation is dying to hear messages of faith and moral conviction. It’s time for leadership, not posturing. It’s time for Biblical counsel, not “seeker-friendly” programs and messages. It’s time for a prophetic word from the pulpits of America.
1. By comparison, several recent studies have indicated that of the roughly 60 million Americans who claim to be evangelical Christians, fewer than half are even registered to vote. Approximately 15 million of these evangelicals cast ballots in the last presidential election.
2. Massachusetts is referenced here, of course, because, by order of the Supreme Judicial Court of that commonwealth, homosexual marriage has been legalized. Though battles rage elsewhere, Massachusetts is still the only state to have done so.
3. As reported in The Hill, (http://www.thehill.com/business/072004_profile.aspx), July 28, 2004.
4. See, “Grassroots Groups Keep Up the Pressure to Rid Massachusetts of ‘Gay Marriage,’Await Critical Vote in Legislature,” July 1, Chalcedon Report, (http://www.chalcedon.edu/articles/0407/04071duigon.php).