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Amendment to protect marriage from courts introduced in House

WASHINGTON (BP)–A constitutional amendment designed to protect marriage as a union between a male and a female has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Federal Marriage Amendment, offered May 15 with Rep. Ronnie Shows, D.-Miss., as the prime sponsor, would prevent attempts in courts or legislatures to redefine marriage to include same-sex unions. It also would restrict the states decisions regarding the recipients of marriage-like benefits.

Many pro-family organizations applauded the proposal, while homosexual-rights advocates condemned it.

“This is the only feasible course available to the American people to protect themselves and their society from having same-sex marriage foisted upon them against their will by judicial dictators in black robes at some point in the future,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

The Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest homosexual political organization, charged the measure would deprive homosexual families of legal protections.

“The U.S. Constitution is a revered document and should not be used for cynical election-year posturing. This amendment is designed to create a divisive, anti-gay wedge issue,” HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch said in a written release.

Proponents of the measure say amending the Constitution is the only way to protect marriage from redefinition. As evidence, they point to plans by promoters of same-sex marriage to use clauses in the Constitution to legalize such unions in every state. They also cite a ruling by the Vermont Supreme Court that required the state legislature to provide marriage-like benefits to homosexual couples. The Vermont legislature established “civil unions” for same-sex couples, granting to homosexuals the benefits of marriage in the process.

Congress adopted the Defense of Marriage Act to protect states from being forced to recognize same-sex marriages performed in another state. Supporters of the new amendment fear a court may strike down at least some applications of DOMA, as well as state laws limiting marriage to a man and a woman. They also say the amendment is needed because DOMA does not bar courts from recognizing same-sex unions entered into overseas by American citizens.

“Without the protection of this amendment, there is a very good chance that eventually the federal judiciary will declare the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and foist upon the people same-sex marriage by raw judicial power,” Land said. “The Federal Marriage Amendment provides a constitutional safety net to prevent that from happening.”

Shows called the Federal Marriage Amendment “a reasonable and measured response to an ongoing and accelerating abuse of power by the American courts. I am convinced that our nation will need to take the extraordinary step of amending the Constitution in order to preserve the legal status of marriage and the family for future generations.

“People who live outside the boundaries of traditional marriage should not be able to redefine what marriage means to everyone else,” Shows said in a written statement.

The text of the amendment reads:

“Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.”

While the amendment would preclude judges from forcing “civil unions” and same-sex, marriage-like benefits upon states, it would not prevent state legislatures from continuing to make such decisions. It also would not affect employee benefits provided by private businesses.

The amendment’s supporters face a daunting task in order for it to become part of the Constitution. An amendment requires approval by two-thirds of both the House and Senate, as well as ratification by three-fourths of the state legislatures or by conventions in three-fourths of the states.

The Alliance for Marriage, a broad coalition including Christians, Jews and Muslims, called last year for Congress to adopt such an amendment and has been the primary force behind its introduction.

Information on the amendment may be accessed on the Internet at www.allianceformarriage.org.