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Bush affirms traditional marriage, although
uncertain about Federal Marriage Amendment

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Bush has affirmed marriage “is between a man and a woman” but stopped short of endorsing a constitutional amendment to protect the institution.

In the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that could set the stage for homosexual unions, a reporter asked Bush July 2 if he supported an amendment to “define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.”

“I don’t know if it’s necessary yet,” the president said. “Let’s let the lawyers look at the full ramifications of the recent Supreme Court [ruling]. What I do support is the notion that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Bush’s comments came three days after Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee endorsed such an amendment. Frist’s support for the Federal Marriage Amendment followed a June 26 opinion by the high court striking down a Texas law against same-sex sexual relations. The 6-3 decision said homosexuals have a right to privacy in their sexual conduct. The majority’s reasoning undermines government’s authority to prevent same-sex couples from receiving the legal benefits of marriage, critics on and off the court said.

Some pro-family leaders said the president would eventually have to announce a position on the amendment. Family Research Council President Ken Connor said Bush’s stance for now is “prudential,” according to The Washington Post, but added, “All elected officials … are going to be forced to express their viewpoints on the meaning of marriage and the role of heterosexual marriage in our society.”

Frist, meanwhile, has received both criticism and plaudits for his support of the FMA.

“It is shocking that Senator Frist, or any other patriotic American, would support an effort to use the Constitution — a document designed to protect the rights of all Americans — to single out a group of Americans for discriminatory treatment,” said Winnie Stachelberg, political director of the Human Rights Campaign, in a written statement. “Senator Frist is marginalizing an entire group of American families, and that is wrong.”

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Focus on the Family commended Frist.

“Anyone who knows Senator Frist and his devotion to marriage and the family would not be in the least surprised at his strong affirmation for the amendment and its attempt to place the sanctity of marriage as being between a man and a woman beyond the cold, clammy touches of judicial activism,” ERLC President Richard Land said.

In addition to limiting marriage to “the union of a man and a woman,” the FMA also would prevent federal and state constitutions and laws from being interpreted to mandate marriage or its benefits for homosexuals and other unmarried people. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R.-Colo., reintroduced the proposal, H.J.Res. 56, in May. It has 25 House of Representatives cosponsors.

The amendment says: “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.”

Supporters of the FMA face an intimidating task in their effort to make it 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.

Proponents of the FMA say the high court’s recent decision in Lawrence v. Texas is only one of several reasons such an amendment is needed.

Many legal observers expect the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to rule soon there is a right in the state constitution for homosexuals to marry. If so, under the federal constitution, other states may have to recognize such “marriages” performed in Massachusetts.

Vermont already has legalized same-sex unions that include nearly all the benefits of marriage.

Recently, an appeals court in the Canadian province of Ontario legalized civil marriage for homosexuals. The Canadian government announced it would not appeal the decision.

Congress adopted the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 to protect states from being forced to recognize same-sex “marriages” performed in another state. Supporters of the FMA, however, fear a court may strike down at least some applications of the DOMA, as well as state laws limiting marriage to a man and a woman. They also say the amendment is needed because the DOMA does not bar courts from recognizing same-sex unions entered into overseas by American citizens.

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