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ERLC, Focus ask SBC pastors to promote marriage amend.

WASHINGTON (BP) – The Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy entity and the advocacy offshoot of a well-known pro-family organization have collaborated to urge pastors to promote support for a federal amendment to protect marriage.

In a letter to all of the 43,600-plus Southern Baptist churches, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Focus on the Family Action asked pastors to help in seeking passage of the Marriage Protection Amendment, S.J. Res. 1. The letter was sent as the Senate moves toward what is expected to be a vote on the proposal in early June.

The amendment, which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman, is intended to protect the institution against continuing legal efforts to sanction “homosexual marriage.” So far, only Massachusetts has legalized “same-sex marriage,” but supreme courts in New Jersey, New York and Washington could legitimize such unions before the end of 2006, according to a recent analysis by the Senate Republican Policy Committee.

In their letter, ERLC President Richard Land and FOFA chairman James Dobson told Southern Baptist pastors their assistance is needed to protect the family. Land and Dobson, two of the leaders in the campaign to enact a marriage amendment, urged them to “involve your congregation … in the battle to preserve the biblical definition of marriage in the face” of attacks from “radical liberal groups and homosexual activists.”

Many senators have not announced their positions on the amendment, Land and Dobson said. “Your involvement will help ensure that each senator receives tangible evidence” of his constituents’ support for protecting marriage, they wrote the pastors. Their goal is to surpass a million postcards sent to senators’ state offices, Land and Dobson said.

The mailing, which was sent April 12, included sample postcards. Pastors also are encouraged to order sheets of postcards without charge for members of their congregations to use.

In addition, Land and Dobson asked pastors to mention the effort from the pulpit, “if God should lead you to do so.”

Focus on the Family Action paid for, printed and mailed the materials that were sent to SBC churches. FOFA is legally separate from Focus on the Family, the pro-life radio program and ministry Dobson started in 1977.

The proposed amendment says, “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.”

In 2004, the Senate failed to provide an up-or-down vote to a similar amendment. Supporters gained only 48 of the 60 votes needed to halt debate and allow a vote — a procedure called invoking cloture. Fifty senators voted against cloture, thereby blocking a vote. It appears supporters of the amendment will have at least a few more votes this year.

The House of Representatives achieved a majority on a similar amendment in 2004, but the 227-186 vote fell far short of the required two-thirds majority, or 290 votes, needed for passage.

Ratification of an amendment to the federal constitution requires not only passage by two-thirds of both houses of Congress but approval by three-fourths of the states.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage