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Q&A: Why does Texas need a marriage amendment?

EDITORS’ NOTE: Early voting is underway in Texas on a proposed marriage amendment to the state constitution. The following story is intended to assist our readers there.

Updated Nov. 3, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas (BP)–Texas citizens go to the polls Nov. 8 to vote on a constitutional marriage amendment known as Proposition 2. Following are some commonly asked questions, with answers, related to the issue:

— Why is a constitutional marriage amendment needed in Texas?

A marriage amendment would protect the natural definition of marriage (one man, one woman) within the Texas Constitution, preventing state courts from legalizing “gay marriage.”

— Doesn’t Texas already have a law banning “gay marriage”?

Yes. But laws — unlike constitutional amendments — can be overturned in state court. This occurred in California and Washington state, both of which saw state courts strike down their respective laws banning “gay marriage.” (Both rulings are being appealed.) Neither state had a marriage amendment — which, once enshrined in the Constitution, cannot be challenged in state court.

— Is Texas facing a “gay marriage” lawsuit?

Texas is not yet facing such a suit, although its neighbor to the north, Oklahoma, is. Oklahoma is one of eight states involved in a “gay marriage” lawsuit. The others are Connecticut, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, California, Florida and Washington. Liberal groups such as the American Civil Liberties Unions are filing the suits.

— Is “gay marriage” legal anywhere in America?

Yes, in Massachusetts. It was legalized by that state’s highest court in 2003, although the ruling didn’t take effect until May 2004. Washington state could be the next domino to fall — that state’s Supreme Court is scheduled to issue a “gay marriage” ruling any week now. Worldwide, “gay marriage” also is legal in Canada, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium.

— How do “gay marriages” in Massachusetts and elsewhere impact Texas?

Homosexual couples “married” in Massachusetts (or elsewhere) could move to Texas and file suit in state court to have their license recognized there. If Texas does not adopt a marriage amendment, a judge could strike down the state’s marriage statutes and force recognition of the couple’s “gay marriage.” Massachusetts currently has a law that prevents out-of-state same-sex couples from acquiring a marriage license, although it is being challenged in state court. If homosexual activists win the suit, then the spreading of Massachusetts marriage licenses nationwide could accelerate.

— How many other states have passed marriage amendments?

Eighteen, although that number continues to grow. At least nine states are considering placing amendments on the ballot in 2006, and some states already are looking ahead to 2008. A marriage amendment has never failed at the ballot, and voters in those 18 states passed them with an average of 70 percent of the vote. Amendments have passed in Democratic-leaning states such as Michigan and Oregon and Republican-leaning states such as Mississippi and Utah.

— What does the text of the proposed amendment say?

The amendment, placed on the ballot by the Texas House and Senate, would ban both “gay marriage” and civil unions. Civil unions, which are legal in Vermont and Connecticut, provide the legal benefits of marriage without using the term “marriage.” The proposed amendment reads:

“Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.”

— Some of the TV and radio ads by amendment opponents have served to confuse voters. If I support the amendment, how should I vote?

A vote “for” Proposition 2 is a vote for the amendment.

— Where can pastors find more information about the Texas amendment?

Conservatives have launched a website, www.TexansForMarriage.org. It contains several resources, including sermon aids and bulletin inserts.

— Why can’t this issue be dealt with in Washington, D.C.?

It can, although the one solution — a federal marriage amendment — is currently stalled in Congress. An amendment to the U.S. Constitution would trump all state laws and render state amendments unnecessary. But because the federal amendment fell short of the required votes in the House and Senate last year, conservatives on the state level see state marriage amendments as the best short-term solution. State amendments have one weakness — they can be overturned in federal court. (Nebraska’s amendment was struck down by a federal judge, although the ruling is being appealed.) Nevertheless, they do provide a strong layer of protection against Massachusetts-type rulings.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust