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Tenn. is latest state to send marriage amendment to voters

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Tennessee’s legislature passed a constitutional marriage amendment March 17, sending it to citizens for a November 2006 vote.

The amendment — which would ban same-sex “marriage” within the state — passed the Tennessee House 86-7. It already had passed the Senate.

Tennessee is the fourth state legislature this year to send a marriage amendment to voters, following similar actions in Alabama, Kansas and South Dakota. Kansans will vote on their amendment April 5. Citizens in Alabama and South Dakota will consider their amendments next year.

A marriage amendment has never failed at the ballot. Last year amendments went 13-for-13, passing with an average of 70.8 percent of the vote.

“If you destroy the definition of marriage, then it would have an adverse effect on society,” Tennessee state Rep. Bill Dunn, a Republican and an amendment sponsor, said during floor debate.

The national movement to ban same-sex “marriage” is a reaction against court rulings in other states — particularly Massachusetts, which saw its highest court legalize same-sex “marriage.” Massachusetts had no marriage amendment.

Marriage amendments protect states from Massachusetts-type rulings. So far, 16 states have passed them. A 17th state, Hawaii, has an amendment that allows the state legislature to ban same-sex “marriage.”

Dunn asserted that the traditional definition of marriage fills an essential role by allowing children to have both a father and a mother in the home. Same-sex “marriage,” he said, falls short of that goal.

“We know that fatherless homes are not good. It’s not the best that we can offer,” he said. “Motherless homes are not the best.”

Johnny Shaw, a Democrat, told Dunn he was supporting the amendment because of what the Bible says.

“The only reason why I would vote for this amendment is not because you bring something to put in the constitution, but because marriage was defined by God,” Shaw said, addressing Dunn. “And none of us — I don’t care what we do and what we say — none of us will ever change what God has said.”

Dunn also referenced the Bible, quoting Christ’s words in Matthew 19:5.

“The most influential human being … that ever walked on the face of the earth about 2,000 years ago said, ‘A man leaves his mother and father and clings to his wife and the two become one,'” Dunn said.

Dunn said he chose to sponsor the amendment even though he knew he would receive many negative e-mails and phone calls.

“As people have complained about my definition I often ask them, ‘What is your definition?’ And they’ll give me one and it always leaves somebody out,” he said. “And I don’t accuse them of being a bigot, of being discriminatory. And I think so many times they recognize that there has to be a definition.”

Approximately 15 other states are considering state constitutional marriage amendments. Pro-family leaders support state marriage amendments but say that a federal marriage amendment will provide the only lasting protecting. The state amendments have one significant weakness — they can be challenged in federal court. Nebraska’s and Oklahoma’s amendments are in federal court.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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  • Michael Foust