- The Washington Times - Monday, June 30, 2003

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist yesterday endorsed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman.

“I very much feel that marriage is a sacrament and that sacrament should extend and can extend to that legal entity of a union between what [has] traditionally in our Western values been defined as between a man and a woman,” Mr. Frist, Tennessee Republican, said on ABC’s “This Week” program. “So I would support the amendment.”

Introduced last month in the House, the amendment is being highlighted as a response to the Supreme Court’s ruling this week that states may not criminalize homosexual sodomy.

Though the decision has no direct effect on the issue of homosexual “marriage,” some among both the ruling’s champions and its criticssaid it lays the constitutional groundwork for such a decision.

Also, many legal observers expect the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to rule soon on a case that challenges the state’s definition of marriage as discriminating against same-sex couples. The history of that court leads many to expect the justices to find a fundamental right to homosexual “marriage” in the Massachusetts Constitution.

With the U.S. Constitution requiring states to extend “full faith and credit” to contracts struck in other states, including marriage contracts, other states then may have to recognize Massachusetts’ homosexual “marriages.”

Congress in 1996 passed, and President Clinton signed, the Defense of Marriage Act, which said the federal government did not recognize same-sex “marriages” and allowed states to refuse to recognize them.

A group of House members led by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, Colorado Republican, wants to raise the prohibition to constitutional status.

Her 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.”

Mr. Frist did not say whether he would schedule a Senate vote on the constitutional amendment if the House passed it.

But he did say he was concerned about the direction of the Supreme Court’s ruling as stepping into an area best reserved for legislatures.

“That’s where those decisions with the local norms, the local mores being able to have their input [are] reflected. And that’s where it should be decided and not in the courts,” he said.

Vermont is the only U.S. state recognizing a same-sex union that carries many of the benefits of marriage but not the word. Around the world, only Belgium and the Netherlands have homosexual “marriage,” though many Western countries have some sort of same-sex union.

A Canadian appeals court has ruled that its country’s definition of marriage as between a man and woman is unconstitutional, rewriting it so to be a contract between two persons.

Last week Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor who is running for the Democratic nomination for president, said he would press states to recognize same-sex “marriages” performed in Canada. As Vermont governor, Mr. Dean signed the law allowing civil unions.

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