- The Washington Times - Monday, June 30, 2003

Backers of a constitutional amendment to declare marriage a covenant between a man and woman are calling last week’s Supreme Court sodomy ruling a boost, but they say it will take a state endorsing homosexual “marriage” to force a vote.

“Lawrence has set the stage, but the real action will begin when we see that decisive move made, probably this summer and probably in Massachusetts,” said Matt Daniels, executive director for the Alliance for Marriage, which is backing the amendment.

“I think what it’s going to take, in all frankness, is a court case, like the one pending in Massachusetts, which will destroy marriage as a man and a woman,” he said.

In the Lawrence decision, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas statute banning homosexual sodomy, but many court watchers say the legal underpinnings lay the groundwork for homosexuals to claim a constitutional right to marry.

Many observers expect the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to do just that later this summer, and at least some observers have argued that the court was waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Lawrence before going ahead.

Foreign events may also press the marriage amendment.

A Canadian appeals court recently struck down the definition as a union between a man and woman and replaced it with a union between two persons. Also, the British Parliament announced its own plans yesterday for civil unions, and though it didn’t call them “marriages,” it designed them to be as close to marriage as possible. It extends rights for work benefits and inheritance to same-sex partners.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, Colorado Republican and the sponsor of the amendment, said the amendment is needed to enshrine the common understanding of marriage.

“We’ve had the definition or marriage for over 200 years as the union between a man and a woman. I am very committed to keeping that definition intact,” she said.

But Elliot Mincberg, vice president of People for the American Way, said lawmakers should give the legal situation time to settle.

“I think it’s likely to take at least a little bit of time for this issue to work itself through, which is why I think it would be particularly damaging for Congress to immediately jump in with a constitutional amendment that stops any activity in this area,” he said.

Joining People for the American Way in opposing the amendment are the American Civil Liberties Union and a host of homosexual-rights groups.

Congress in 1996 passed the Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Clinton and saying the federal government may not recognize a homosexual union sanctioned by a state and that no other state has to accept a homosexual “marriage” performed in another state.

But both proponents and opponents said they expect courts to rule the law unconstitutional, because the Constitution requires states to give “full faith and credit” to contracts, including marriage contracts, from other states. So the amendment’s backers say that amending the Constitution is the answer.

“You’re responding to liberal judges. The activists have not chosen to go through the legislative process. Now this is how we have to respond,” Mrs. Musgrave said.

Passing an amendment in Congress requires a two-thirds majority vote in each house, then ratification by three-fourths of the states.

The vote on the 1996 law suggests that there is enough support in Congress. That bill passed 85-14 in the Senate and 342-67 in the House.

“I think if leadership wants this to come to a vote, it will be much like it was with DOMA. That passed and was signed into law by Bill Clinton,” Mrs. Musgrave said. She also said 36 states have passed their own versions of the Defense of Marriage Act. That’s two shy of the 38 states needed to ratify an amendment.

But Mr. Mincberg said there’s a difference between passing a bill and a constitutional amendment. He pointed to the overwhelming support in Congress for federal statutes banning flag burning but their failure to muster a two-thirds majority in the Senate to pass such an amendment.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist endorsed the amendment Sunday. House leaders haven’t endorsed it, though both House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, voted for the Defense of Marriage Act.

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