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Can Congress Defend Marriage? House Advances, Senate Stumbles

By Lee Duigon
July 23, 2004

Will the U.S. Congress defend marriage from being redefined by activist courts and homosexual plaintiffs in lawsuits?

The House of Representatives took a step forward in that direction on July 22, passing the Marriage Protection Act, 233–194. Most of the "ayes" were Republicans, most of the "nays" Democrats.

A week earlier, the Senate failed to move a proposed marriage amendment, getting only 48 votes (mostly Republican) out of 60 needed.

The Marriage Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.), would deprive federal courts of the power to hear cases challenging the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. The 1996 law defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, and says that states need not recognize homosexual "marriages" performed in other states.

"Ultimately we want to stop 'gay marriage.' This bill first seeks to contain it. We hope the American people will then decide to stop it," said Michael Jahr, Hostettler's press secretary.

So far, same-sex unions are only "legal" in Massachusetts, thanks to a controversial ruling by that state's Supreme Judicial Court. The Marriage Protection Act, Jahr explained, would prevent homosexual militants from "exporting" it to other states by means of lawsuits.

Two days earlier, two lesbians who were "married" in Massachusetts sued the state of Florida to force Florida to recognize their "marriage." That news, Jahr said, ought to convince more legislators to vote for the Marriage Protection Act.

"Some were saying there was no hurry, there was no challenge yet. Well, that argument is gone. The challenge is here," Jahr said.

What About the Senate?

"While the Senate was unable to proceed to this important measure," Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said, "I continue to believe that a constitutional amendment is necessary to combat the activist courts who have attempted to redefine marriage."

Meanwhile, Jahr said, Hostettler's bill must be passed by the Senate before it can be submitted to President George W. Bush, whose public support for the defense of marriages makes it likely he will sign the bill into law.

"We have no sponsor for it in the Senate yet," Jahr said, "but we'll find one. This is an election year, and we think some of the senators who voted against the marriage amendment won't be around next year."

Here Today …

Meanwhile, two homosexuals who were "married" in San Francisco in February have already sued for a "divorce," as reported in World Net Daily, July 13, 2004.

It only goes to show that homosexual militants are not putting America through this ordeal out of a burning desire to be "married." Lesbian lawyer Paula Ettelbrick, a founder of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which has litigated "gay marriage" cases in several states, explained the militants' true objective: "radically reordering society's view of reality … transforming the very fiber of society" (in Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Law, 1993).

Having made their point, there is no longer any incentive for the San Francisco duo to stay "married."

Burning Out the Switchboard

The day the Senate voted on the marriage amendment, my attempt to contact Senator Shelby resulted only in an "all circuits are busy" message.

Phone calls from citizens demanding that the Senate protect marriage overloaded the Washington, D.C., telephone system, said Bob Knight, of Concerned Women for America, who that morning testified in favor of the Marriage Protection Act before the House Judiciary Committee.

"Grassfire" is one of many grassroots citizens' groups that have sprung up to defend marriage. In an email to a participating pastor in Virginia, Grassfire.net — in partnership with the Alliance for Marriage — thanked citizens for their phone calls.

"The nonstop flood of phone calls into the Senate were ranging from 20–1 to 50–1 in favor of the marriage amendment," the email said. "Yesterday your calls actually knocked out the Senate voice mail system — causing phone calls all over the Senate to be misrouted."

Another new group, the Association for Church Renewal, embraces more than 30 mainline denominations in its membership — including those known for their liberal stand on social issues, such as the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and the Episcopal Church U.S.A.

Parker Williamson, executive director of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, said the liberal leadership doesn't speak for the denomination's membership. He has so far collected 2,200 signatures on a petition to protect marriage.

The recent votes in both houses of Congress, he said, "will tell us where our Senators and Congressmen stand on this issue, and people will want to know that."

Congressional action is important, Williamson said, but action by the people and their churches is even more important if marriage is to be preserved in America.

"We must begin with the churches. We must take far more seriously the role the church can play in supporting marriage.

"Homosexual 'marriage' is just an oxymoron. Marriage is grounded in creation itself; it is the gift of God, the primary institution in our social order. Its demise would be disastrous to the entire civil community."

While waging the political fight in Congress, he said, "we have to do more to support marriage at home, in our daily lives. Polls show that most laymen in most denominations still take marriage seriously, regardless of some of the liberal leaders' call for a new sexual ethic. But the regeneration of marriage has to begin here, with us."


Topics: Family & Marriage, Government, Justice

Lee Duigon

Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.

Lee has his own blog at www.leeduigon.com.

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