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FIRST-PERSON: Getting ready for a vote on marriage

DALLAS (BP)–A pre-Easter column in The Washington Post quotes an announcement from First Lady Laura Bush’s office: “Mrs. Bush wants to make sure all families are welcome to attend the Easter Egg Roll.” The event, complete with petting zoos, staff members dressed as bunnies, and 14,200 Easter eggs, is sometimes marked by a brief visit from the president and a story read by the first lady.

The Post described a new dimension to the event this year, a political aspect to the 128-year-old Washington ritual. Back in January, the White House began fielding questions about a planned mobilization of families headed by same-sex couples aimed at staging a significant homosexual presence at the White House celebration. One organizer, New York University Professor Colleen Gillespie, said she, her partner and their daughter, Ella, participated to dispel criticism of homosexual parenthood and to provide “a visual picture of what that family looks like.”

United States senators undoubtedly will be reminded of these festivities when they consider, for the second time, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution affirming the definition of marriage as the union between one man and one woman. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has promised a floor debate on the measure in early June. The House probably will vote on the amendment in late July.

It’s a tall order to amend the constitution. For starters, it takes a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress. Sadly, marriage is not expected to garner anywhere near that much support this summer. Two years ago, by a vote of 48-50, the Senate failed to invoke cloture, which means the bill never even made it to the floor for a vote. The House rejected the amendment, with 227 voting for it and 186 against it. (Remember, you need two-thirds to win.)

The marriage amendment will attract a few more votes this time — the current count is 52 in the Senate. That’s disappointing when you consider that polls consistently show American citizens reject the idea of “same-sex marriage.” But members of Congress get away with voting against the Marriage Protection Amendment by arguing that marriage is not threatened simply because some homosexual groups want it. After all, they say, there’s a federal Defense of Marriage Act and the vast majority of the states have laws and/or constitutional amendments defining marriage according to traditional norms. But it’s becoming clear that another layer of protection is necessary.

Americans support traditional marriage. The conflict arises because homosexual advocates have managed to equate the quest for “gay marriage” with a struggle for equality in the eyes of the law. Lacking the will to make a moral judgment regarding the behavior that defines homosexuals, the Democratic Party has become the home for their agenda. The votes in both houses of Congress this year will be strictly political, an effort to energize the bases of both parties in anticipation of the November elections.

Yet marriage is a political winner.

In 2002 and 2004 Democrats learned the hard way that the pro-life position is a winning one. Does the lesson apply to marriage in 2006? It just might. Citizens across the nation understand — often better than their political leaders — that without constitutional protection, “same-sex marriage” eventually will be imposed on the entire nation. In March, the Senate Republican Policy Committee published a paper, entitled “Why a Marriage Amendment is Necessary,” to help senators understand the threat to marriage and to remove the barriers to a yes vote on the marriage protection amendment. The paper, available at http://rpc.senate.gov, answers some common questions and arguments:

— “Will a vote for the marriage amendment help me politically?”

In most states the answer is yes. Even though polls show support for a federal Marriage Protection Amendment hovering at around 50 percent, actual support probably is higher. State marriage amendments have been wildly successful. The 19 states that have considered marriage amendments have passed them by an average vote of 71 percent.

— “We don’t need to amend the constitution because same-sex marriage is an anomaly that will be confined to liberal Massachusetts.”

Evidence to the contrary is mounting quickly. As of this writing, we await rulings from the top courts in Washington and New Jersey, either of which could become the second state joining Massachusetts in allowing “same-sex marriage.” According to a March ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, non-residents are prohibited from marrying there if their unions would not be legal in their home states. Washington has no such law. If marriage becomes legal in that state, it will become a marriage mecca for homosexuals. They’ll return home and initiate court proceedings demanding recognition of their marriages. Money will be no problem. The ACLU and Lamda Legal (a prominent homosexual legal group) will be on hand with open pocketbooks. Other lawsuits are winding their way through the courts in California, Connecticut, Nebraska, Iowa, Maryland, and New York. Eventually, we’ll have a patchwork nation with states defining marriage different ways.

— “Let each state, even each church, define marriage.”

The problems with this approach would, and probably will, fill another column. The short answer is: That idea would result in legal chaos and the eventual destruction of marriage.

Another question, of course is: Do you have your senators’ email addresses and phone number?
Dexter is a board of trustee member with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, a conservative activist and an announcer on the new syndicated radio program “Life on the Line” (information available at www.lifeontheline.com). She currently serves as a consultant for KMA Direct Communications in Plano, Texas, and as a producer for “Washington Watch Weekly,” a broadcast of the Family Research Council. She formerly was a co-host of Marlin Maddoux’s “Point of View” syndicated radio program.

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  • Penna Dexter