WASHINGTON (BP)–The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and two dozen other Christian and pro-family organizations held a news conference Oct. 2 saying they have joined together to defend the traditional definition of marriage.
The effort will begin Oct. 12-18 with Marriage Protection Week and will work toward passage of a constitutional amendment to preserve the traditional definition of the institution.
ERLC President Richard Land and others said at the Washington news conference that the issue has prompted an unprecedented response, and that they promised an all-out effort to preserve marriage.
Land said he has never seen in his “40 years of ministry any issue … that has come even close to this issue in rousing the grassroots Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christians to mak[e] a stand.”
“[T]hey understand at an intuitive level. They are coming to us out of the woodwork. Churches that are not a regular part of our network … want us with them, and they want to be with us on this issue.”
The coalition came into existence as a result of a June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that some believe could set the stage for homosexual unions. The coalition also developed in anticipation of a court ruling in Massachusetts that could result in the legalization of same-sex “marriage” in that state. A ruling is expected any day.
Focus on the Family Founder and Chairman James Dobson echoed Land, saying that no issue like the battle over marriage has “come along in our lifetime to mobilize people of faith and people of a conservative conscience. And Congress will hear from them. We have already heard from them, and we will stand together with them.”
Defenders of marriage cannot allow the courts to redefine marriage, Dobson said, adding, “We will not allow that to happen.”
President Bush, who has affirmed marriage as between a man and a woman, has proclaimed Oct. 12-18 as Marriage Protection Week, according to Concerned Women for America. The ERLC and other organizations are asking pastors to preach on marriage Oct. 12. The ERLC also is encouraging Southern Baptists to contact their members of Congress about supporting a constitutional amendment.
The ERLC also has a resolution on its Internet site (www.faithandfamily.com) that churches and other groups can endorse as part of Marriage Protection Week activities.
Supporters of a constitutional amendment face an intimidating task to gain ratification. It requires approval by two-thirds of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as ratification by three-fourths of the state legislatures or by conventions in three-fourths of the states.
The process guarantees every public official or candidate will have to address the issue, amendment proponents said.
“Politicians who don’t know the radioactive nature of this issue now will by November of 2004,” Land said. “And this issue is a real easy one for people to understand. Either they want same-sex marriage or they don’t want same-sex marriage. And about two out of three Americans, by a conservative estimate, don’t want marriage granted to same-sex relationships.
“This is an issue that will affect every congressional race; it will affect every senatorial race, and it will affect every state legislative race,” he said, “because when we get this amendment passed out of the Congress, it will go to the states for ratification. And so our people want to know, ‘Will their state representative vote for ratification of the Federal Marriage Amendment or not?’ And it will determine how they vote.”
Gary Bauer, head of American Values, said, “There is not a politician in America today who will get away without being very specific about where he or she stands on this issue. And we pledge to defeat any politician that is AWOL or in doubt about the definition of marriage being between a man and a woman.”
Because of the political nature of the debate over marriage and a constitutional amendment, Dobson said he is prepared to take a leave of absence from Focus on the Family to work in election races where there is an “obvious lack of understanding” on the issue.
The Family Research Council unveiled a marriage protection pledge it will distribute to public officials asking them to affirm marriage as a union of a man and a woman.
The only proposal introduced thus far is the Federal Marriage Amendment, H.J.Res. 56. That amendment states: “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.”
In a 6-3 ruling June 26, the Supreme Court struck down laws against sodomy in Texas as well as 12 other states. Critics of the opinion said the reasoning in the court’s opinion may open the door for other concessions to homosexual rights advocates.
Among the other members of the Coalition to Protect Marriage are Concerned Women for America, American Family Association, Christian Coalition, Eagle Forum, Prison Fellowship, the National Religious Broadcasters and Home School Legal Defense Fund.
More information on Marriage Protection Week may be accessed on the Internet at www.marriageprotectionweek.com.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: MARRIAGE WEEK.