Thursday, October 2, 2003

Two dozen conservative and religious groups yesterday pledged to use their bully pulpits, media outlets and grass-roots resources to rouse national and political support for traditional marriage.

“Every once in a while, a great nation has to deal with a great issue,” said Gary Bauer, president of American Values, one of 24 founding groups in the Coalition to Protect Marriage.

“We think it’s time for the country to deal with” the issue of homosexuality and “the fundamental question of what is a marriage,” said Mr. Bauer.

“Millions of people understand that it’s not bigotry to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and it’s not right-wing to think that children need a mother and a father, not two mothers and two fathers,” he said. “We’re prepared for that debate.”

President Bush has declared Oct. 12 to 18 as Marriage Protection Week, and the coalition plans to blanket the airwaves, church media and public venues with messages about the importance of traditional marriage, said Sandy Rios, president of Concerned Women for America.

Marriage is also going to be a permanent political issue, coalition leaders said.

Every federal and state lawmaker will be asked to sign a pledge to uphold traditional marriage and oppose civil unions and domestic partnerships, said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

“This will be a rolling crescendo,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “Politicians who don’t know the radioactive nature of this issue now will by November of 2004.”

The week of Oct. 12 to 18 will also be a time for Americans to hear support for same-sex “marriage,” said homosexual activists.

“We must respond positively and proactively to these messages of intolerance, oppression and hate,” said the Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Churches.

MCC materials urged the denomination’s churches and allies to write letters, preach sermons and speak publicly about the issue.

David Smith of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest homosexual rights group, said yesterday: “We consider this to be a politically motivated, mean-spirited attack on gay and lesbian families.

“If they’re looking to make a political issue out of attempting to deny children raised in gay families the safety and security of a legal structure provided by a civil [marriage] license, that’s going to backfire with the American people.”

Others said that although the conservative coalition appears united in support of legislation to define marriage in the Constitution, there is considerable disagreement.

“I was at a conservative conference over the weekend, and even though there’s a lot of support for [a federal marriage amendment], it was not nearly unanimous,” said Bob Barr, a Republican and former congressman from Georgia who wrote the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

The act is a solid piece of legislation, he said, “and before we give up on that and move onto something else, let’s see if there’s a problem with it.”

Earlier this week, the Alliance for Marriage, a group that supports a House bill creating a federal marriage amendment, said 90 congressmen support the bill.

Other coalition leaders who spoke at a press conference yesterday included James Dobson of Focus on the Family, the Rev. Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association, Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation and the Rev. Hugo Quinonez of Tabernacle of God in Burke.

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