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Amendment does not support bias, Dobson, others say

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Reacting to charges that bigotry and bias are at the heart of support for a constitutional marriage amendment, Focus on the Family’s James Dobson and other pro-family leaders said Feb. 25 that such claims are being used to “distort the debate.”

Dobson and six other pro-family leaders issued an open letter to The New York Times and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D.-Mass., after the newspaper and the Senator criticized President Bush for his support for a marriage amendment.

The Times’ editorial charged Bush with wanting to inject “exclusion” into the Constitution, while Kennedy said Bush would go down in history as the first president to “write bias back into the Constitution.” The Times editorial ran under the headline, “Putting Bias in the Constitution.”

Dobson and the others, though, disagreed.

“The charges of bias,” the letter reads, “are especially galling in the light of the fact that 85 U.S. Senators and 342 Members of the House voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed by President Clinton. It contained the very same language, that marriage in the United States shall be between one man and one woman. Are all of these leaders, including former President Clinton, bigots?”

The letter was signed by Dobson, Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship; Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice; Don Wildmon of the American Family Association; Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse; Deal Hudson of Crisis Magazine; and Richard Neuhaus of First Things magazine.

“According to the polls, two-thirds of the American people oppose granting new rights for gay marriage — is that bigotry?” the letter asks. “Is it bigotry that the overwhelming majority of religious traditions support marriage as the union of one man and one woman?”

The Times’ editorial said the marriage amendment would be the only amendment “to stigmatize and exclude a group of Americans.” It also said it would “inject meanspiritedness and exclusion into the document embodying our highest principles and aspirations.”

The leaders asserted that the arguments used by The Times and Kennedy are diversionary tactics.

“We suggest that these personal attacks are being made to mask the real issues and distort the debate,” the letter read. “It is not bigotry or intolerance to defend an institution every society has recognized as essential to its stable social order. It is indeed intolerance in the extreme to characterize those who defend that institution as bigots.

“It is also disingenuous to argue, as some do, that they are opposed to gay marriage but oppose any constitutional amendment.”

Democratic frontrunner John Kerry says he opposes same-sex “marriage” but also opposes an amendment.

“It is now clear that the amendment is the only way to prevent court imposed gay marriage — or public officials recklessly disregarding the law granting licenses,” the letter continues. “Is it wrong to let the people vote? Do we not trust the people? Apparently The New York Times and others do not.”

The leaders pledged “not to engage in rhetoric that demean others” during the ongoing national debate and called on The Times, Kennedy and “others who oppose this amendment to make the same commitment.”

The letter came one day after a group of some 70 evangelical and pro-family leaders released a separate letter of support for Bush’s amendment stance. Signed by Dobson, Graham, Richard Land, D. James Kennedy, Tony Perkins and others, it thanked Bush for his courage on the issue and pledged the support of the leaders.

Two pro-family organizations, Concerned Women for America and the Campaign for California Families, released statements thanking Bush for wanting to protect marriage but saying they believe an amendment should also ban civil unions. Bush said the issue of civil unions should be left up to the states.

“Concerned Women for America is grateful to President Bush for speaking out in favor of the integrity of marriage,” CWA President Sandy Rios said in a statement. “But we regret that we cannot support the defective remedy he has chosen.”

Conservatives have been split in recent months on the issue of an amendment. Some have wanted an amendment banning civil unions, while others have said that such an amendment, while desirable, would be unfeasible politically.

Meanwhile, the guess-work has begun in Washington over an amendment’s prospects. The so-called Federal Marriage Amendment picked up three co-sponsors after Bush’s announcement and now has 116 supporters. It has nine supporters in the Senate.

The Washington Times reported that Senate Republicans were confident, but House Republicans less so, about an amendment’s chances.

“The groups that are for a constitutional amendment are split over what it should be,” House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R.-Texas, was quoted as saying. “We’re trying to bring them all together and unify them — that’s going to take some time.”

There is debate over whether the current version of an amendment would ban civil unions. Amendment supporters say it leaves the issue up to state legislatures.

Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist predicted hearings soon.

“With what is being done by activist judges — in Massachusetts, most notably, but around the country — it is very likely that we will act,” he was quoted as saying in the San Francisco Chronicle. “And that process will begin through hearings here shortly in the United States Senate.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D.-Calif., said she was unsure where the votes in the Senate are. She opposes an amendment.

“I would hope there would be enough senators to stop it, but I don’t know,” she said, according to the Chronicle.

Pro-family groups are still trying to stop San Francisco from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has decided to take the case directly to the state Supreme Court Feb. 27, although it is unclear if the justices will accept the case this early in the process. It is still pending in lower courts.

In addition, the Alliance Defense Fund announced Feb. 25 that it will file suit against San Francisco on behalf of two city residents. The ADF is asking the California Supreme Court to issue an immediate stay against the city.

California has a law explicitly banning the recognition of same-sex “marriage.”
For more information on the debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit BP’s story collection at:

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  • Michael Foust