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Marriage amendment needs grass-roots outcry, Land says

WASHINGTON (BP)–Opponents of same-sex “marriage” have been awaiting an outcry from Americans to generate support in Congress to protect the institution of marriage, but so far it hasn’t happened, a Southern Baptist ethicist said.

“During my last trip to Washington, D.C., I spoke to several members of Congress who told me they were not hearing from their constituents about the Federal Marriage Amendment issue,” said Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Despite what is happening in Massachusetts, there is no question that this issue is in the hands of the American people.”

The reality of state-sanctioned marriage for homosexuals hit the country May 17, when a Massachusetts high court ruling legalizing same-sex “marriage” went into effect. Opponents are concerned out-of-state couples will return home and seek recognition of their “marriages” in their states, setting up the possibility of such unions being legal throughout the country.

The solution, the ERLC and other organizations have been saying since last year, is a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as only the union of a man and a woman. The Federal Marriage Amendment, S.J. Res. 30 in the Senate and H.J. Res. 56 in the House of Representatives, is the vehicle most pro-family groups have endorsed, but so far congressional support for the measure clearly is lacking.

“Unless Southern Baptists and other people of faith want to see a judicially decreed, same-sex ‘marriage’ hegemony imposed on the entire country, they must translate their outrage, conviction and concern into phone calls to their senators, congressmen and the president,” Land said. “Unless Washington feels the heat from a groundswell of protest, they won’t see the light, and marriage as we have known it in America will be further imperiled. Same-sex ‘marriage’ shatters the definition of marriage rather than merely expanding it,” as some claim, he said.

The ERLC and other pro-family and evangelical Christian voices began warning about the possibility of such an advance in homosexual rights after a fateful U.S. Supreme Court decision last June. In a 6-3 ruling in a case out of Texas, the justices struck down laws against sodomy.

In October, the ERLC and two dozen other organizations announced a campaign to preserve marriage. They announced the effort’s goal was to pass a constitutional amendment. This came even before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in November the state could not prohibit homosexuals from marrying but delayed enforcement for 180 days.

In the months that ensued, the ERLC and its allies worked toward building support for an amendment. While they have worked in their normal capacities, they also have worked collaboratively as part of a pro-marriage coalition that meets regularly in the Washington area.

The coalition formed The Marriage Amendment Project. In addition to the ERLC and another SBC entity, the North American Mission Board, project members include the American Family Association, Christian Coalition, Coral Ridge Ministries, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Liberty University, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, National Association of Evangelicals, Christian Legal Society, Exodus International, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, National Religious Broadcasters and the Wilberforce Forum of Prison Fellowship.

When they saw the need for a concerted effort in Washington, the organizations pooled their resources and formed a staff. Shannon Royce, the former director of government relations for the ERLC’s Washington office, is the executive director of the project. She remains a consultant for the agency but, with the ERLC’s support, is devoting her time to coordinating the coalition effort behind the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Barrett Duke, the ERLC’s vice president for public policy and research, chairs the project’s opposition research team. It publishes regular summaries of the arguments being used by the advocates of same-sex “marriage.”

In addition to participating in the coalition’s meetings, Land and Duke have met with members of Congress seeking their endorsement of the marriage amendment. They have spent hours speaking with Southern Baptist leaders and pastors about the need for such a measure.

Land also has discussed the issue on the ERLC’s daily radio program, “For Faith and Family,” and his Saturday call-in show, “Richard Land Live.” The ELRC also continues to focus on the subject on its Internet site, www.faithandfamily.com.

Support for an amendment to address the problem has increased in recent months. A Wirthlin Worldwide survey released May 17 showed 57 percent of Americans strongly favor and 10 percent somewhat favor an amendment with wording similar to the FMA. To ratify an amendment, however, requires approval by two-thirds of both the Senate and House and three-fourths of the states.

Such public support, including from Christians, apparently has yet to be reflected by contacts on Capitol Hill.

“I used to think the church was sleeping and that someday something big would happen, and we would all wake up and say, ‘Stop it now!'” Land said in a commentary for Baptist Press. “I still hope it will happen, but the hour is very late and the crisis is great.”

Members of Congress may be contacted by calling the Capitol switchboard, (202) 224-3121. E-mails may be sent through the ERLC’s website, www.faithandfamily.com.

The website of The Marriage Amendment Project is www.formarriage.org.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit