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Land, others push Bush to support marriage amendment

WASHINGTON (BP)–Pro-family leaders applauded proposed plans by the White House for a continued emphasis on healthy marriages but agreed President Bush still needs to endorse a constitutional amendment to protect the institution.

The Bush administration is planning an election-year effort to promote marriage, renewing a past proposal from Bush that would amount to $300 million annually for five years, some of that amount in matching state funds.

The president’s proposals under reauthorization of the welfare reform law, which was enacted in 1996, are “principally demonstration projects to encourage healthy marriages,” White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters Jan. 14. “[T]here is a lot of evidence out there that shows that children in two-parent families do better. They learn better. They’re five times less likely to live in poverty, and they go on to enjoy healthier relationships as adults.”

Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention said he “very much supports and applauds the president’s initiatives to strengthen marriage in the United States. The single most effective cure for poverty among women and children in America is for women to marry the fathers of their children. Anything the government can do to help promote marriage is something all Americans should applaud and support.

“However, this is not a substitute for supporting a federal marriage amendment to guarantee that marriage in the United States will be only between a man and a woman,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Land and other defenders of the biblical and traditional view of marriage are campaigning for a constitutional amendment in the face of efforts to legalize same-sex “marriage.” They say only such action will protect the institution as solely the union of a man and a woman.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said he was “quite pleased that the Bush administration recognizes that marriage promotion is a worthy aim of the federal government.”

The administration “must also recognize that cohabitation and divorce are not the only threats to the institution of marriage,” Perkins said in a written statement. “Efforts to redefine marriage out of existence must be stopped, and the president’s support of a federal marriage amendment would go a long way in making sure that marriage is not only promoted but also protected.”

Sandy Rios, president of Concerned Women for America, endorsed the president’s efforts to promote marriage but charged his administration with “dancing dangerously around the issue of homosexual marriage.”

“What they view here as a way of addressing the marriage issue and pacifying conservatives is an insult to all who really understand the issue,” Rios said on her radio program. “Those who would lead the president to believe that an initiative to promote marriage among low-income families will be an adequate defense against the destruction of marriage are political fools who will destroy the nation in an effort to mainstream perversion.”

Bush has affirmed marriage as only between a man and a woman since court rulings last year began to open the way to homosexual “marriage” becoming legal. McClellan told reporters Jan. 14 the president “has made it very clear that he will do what is necessary to protect and defend the sanctity of marriage.” He did not say Bush had decided to support a constitutional amendment.

In a December interview with ABC News, Bush said, “If necessary, I will support a constitutional amendment which would honor marriage between a man and a woman …,” but he added, “the position of this administration is that whatever legal arrangements people want to make, they’re allowed to make, so long as it’s embraced by the state or does start at the state level.”

Those comments caused concern among supporters of marriage.

The amendment now proposed in Congress is the Federal Marriage Amendment, House Joint Resolution 56 and Senate Joint Resolution 26. 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.

The 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.”

Some pro-family advocates remain unconvinced the language is sufficiently strong to deal with the problem.

Supporters of an amendment 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.

The movement to protect marriage constitutionally received added impetus from rulings last year in Washington, D.C., and in Massachusetts.

In June, the Supreme Court struck down a law against sodomy in Texas. Critics of the opinion said the reasoning in the court’s ruling may open the door for other concessions to homosexual rights advocates.

In November, Massachusetts’ top court ruled that banning homosexual “marriage” is a violation of the state constitution. It stayed its decision 180 days to allow the Massachusetts legislature to respond to the decision.