- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 21, 2004

President Bush’s unprecedented State of the Union reference to a “constitutional process” to protect traditional marriage has rallied supporters of a federal marriage amendment.

“I was very much heartened. It’s always a good thing to have the president in your corner,” Sen. Wayne Allard, Colorado Republican, said yesterday. “We share the same convictions about the importance of marriage and the same concerns about activist judges.”

Mr. Allard, along with Republican Sens. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Jeff Sessions of Alabama introduced a constitutional amendment in November. A companion bill introduced to the House in May has more than 100 sponsors.

In Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, Mr. Bush said that the nation “must value the institution of marriage” and that Congress had “already taken a stand” on the issue by passing the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. That act, signed by President Clinton, defined traditional marriage and clarified that states don’t have to recognize each other’s marriage-like unions.

“Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage” in their courts, said Mr. Bush. “If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process.”

Matt Daniels of the Alliance for Marriage lauded the president for addressing the need for constitutional action during such an important speech.

“We are grateful to President Bush for saying that he supports a marriage amendment. … [He] is to be congratulated for his leadership in speaking for the broad majority of the American people on this issue,” Mr. Daniels said.

To amend the U.S. Constitution, a bill must pass both chambers of Congress and be ratified by 38 states. The legislation consists of two sentences: One says that “marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman,” and the other upholds states’ rights to decide policies for unmarried couples or groups.

The amendment process is not easy, said Mr. Allard, who attended a Washington Times editorial board meeting yesterday.

“We’re in the education part” of the process, Mr. Allard said of the amendment. Mr. Bush’s remarks were a welcome and unexpected surprise, although it appears he “is ahead of a lot of my fellow senators,” he added.

However, Democratic leaders and homosexual rights groups denounced Mr. Bush’s remarks as “divisive.”

“The Democratic National Campaign and all seven of our presidential candidates are opposed to this mean-spirited constitutional amendment,” which would “insert prejudice and discrimination into the U.S. Constitution,” said DNC Chairman Terance B. McAuliffe.

Mr. Bush’s reference to “activist judges” was unjustified, the Human Rights Campaign said.

Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, said he was pleased with Mr. Bush’s remarks because they explained that, within the next few years, the U.S. Constitution is going to be changed either by “activist judges” or the will of the people through Congress.

“I think he clearly said we need to do this before they do this to us,” Mr. Santorum said.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, Colorado Republican and a lead backer of the House marriage bill, said she was “very encouraged” Mr. Bush’s “very strong” remarks.

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