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Effort to call Vermont lawmakers over same-sex unions endorsed by SBC leader

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Vermont legislators need to hear from Southern Baptists nationwide, said Southern Baptist ethics agency leader Richard Land, endorsing an initiative by Focus on the Family to oppose same-sex “civil unions” legislation pending before the Vermont Senate.

Focus on the Family has issued a nationwide alert — with telephone numbers for various Vermont leaders — urging Christians to place telephone calls in opposition to H. 847, the bill passed by the Vermont House of Representatives to create marriage-like unions for homosexual partners in response to a mandate from the state’s supreme court.

The bill, if passed, “could have national implications,” Focus on the Family’s alert stated.

“We cannot allow Vermont to decide the fate of marriage for the rest of this country,” said Tom Minnery, Focus on the Family’s vice president for public policy.

The telephone numbers listed by Focus on the Family include those of Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, (802) 828-3333, and Lt. Gov. Doug Racine, (802) 828-2226.

Vermont senators listed by Focus on the Family are Sen. Peter Shumlin, president pro tempore, office (802) 828-3806 and home (802) 387-4447; Sen. Jan Backus, (802) 655-7455; Peter Brownell, office (802) 656-5711 and home (802) 434-3923; Sen. Ann Cummings, office (802) 476-3630 and home (802) 223-6043; Sen. Sara Branon Kittell, (802) 827-3274; Sen. Elizabeth Ready, office (802) 388-9080 and home (802) 453-2899; Sen. Helen Riehle, (802) 864-5460; and Sen. Richard Sears, office (802) 442-6156 and home (802) 442-9139.

Additional information is available at a Focus-related Internet site, www.citizenlink.org.

One key concern, as noted by David Coolidge, director of the Washington-based Marriage Law Project: “In its present form, H. 847 does not require Vermont residency to establish a civil union.” Coolidge predicted that “gay partners in other states will go to Vermont to register their relationship as a civil union, then return to their home state to seek recognition of their union, possibly by challenging existing marriage laws.”

Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said in a statement that “a nationwide crisis concerning the very nature and future of marriage” has been precipitated by the Vermont Supreme Court decision last December to require the state government to provide the benefits and protections of marriage in some form of civil union for homosexual and lesbian couples.

“While Vermont’s decision impacts only that state initially, given the track record of the activist federal judiciary over the last half-century, there is little doubt that if Vermont establishes such ‘civil unions’ for same-sex couples, the federal courts will eventually force other states to recognize such unions in some form,” Land said.

“This would have disastrous consequences, even in those more than 30 states that have already passed defense of marriage laws,” Land continued.

Thus, Land said he is endorsing the nationwide campaign by Christians to call Vermont’s leaders to oppose legal status and benefits for homosexual unions.

“Since all Americans will be impacted by what Vermont does, citizens of each of the other 49 states all have a right and responsibility to let the Vermont Senate know of the depth of their conviction that marriage between one man and one woman is the foundational building block of our civilization,” Land said.

“Concerned Americans must urge Vermont legislators in the strongest possible terms not to do anything, such as passing their pending civil union legislation, that would jeopardize the sanctity of the marriage institution.”

Land noted that “a very simple solution” can be tapped by Vermont’s legislators: Let the people vote in a statewide referendum.

It’s what voters in Hawaii did in November 1998 — successfully added a definition of marriage as between one man and one woman to the state constitution — after that state’s supreme court issued a ruling in 1993 that set the state on a course for same-sex unions.

“There is nothing that would prevent the state of Vermont from changing its constitution” to stipulate that marriage entails only a man and a woman, Land said.

Vermont voters already appear poised to nix same-sex unions.

More than 50 of Vermont’s 246 communities voted March 7 in opposition to same-sex marriages, and fewer than 10 towns recommended that the state legislature approve legal benefits for homosexual couples.

The votes were taken during the annual “Vermont Town Meeting Day,” the one day of the year when municipal budgets are decided and town officers are elected.

In Hawaii, 69 percent of the voters approved the constitutional amendment in November 1998 endorsing traditional marriage. The same day, Alaska voters also placed a ban on same-sex marriages in their constitution by a 68 percent majority.