Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Social Conservatives Split Over Marriage Protection Amendment Which Just Failed In The U.S. House

SPECIAL NOTE: Post updated on July 18th, 8:15 P.M. Alaska Time to correct erroneous information. The AP wire story specifies 283 votes rather than 290 votes for a two-thirds majority. CBN says 288. I'll go with AP's number.

While Matt Daniels (pictured at left) and his Alliance for Marriage group continue to support the Marriage Protection Amendment (HJR 88) and are urging the U.S. House to pass it, the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) is surprisingly urging House members to vote against it. In a statement posted on their website, TVC expresses the belief that not only will the Marriage Protection Amendment (MPA) do little to protect traditional marriage, but also poses a danger of constitutionally enshrining homosexual civil unions and domestic partnerships. However, this may have just become a back-burner issue as mainstream media outlets like CNN and MSNBC have just reported that MPA was defeated in the House of Representatives. The vote was 236 yeas, 187 nays, 1 present and 9 not voting - failing to get the two-thirds majority, or 283, yea votes, needed to approve a resolution to amend the Constitution. However, the split among social conservatives remains worthy of discussion and analysis, and may have contributed to the amendment's failure to get enough votes.

Click here to see how your House member voted. Alaska's Don Young voted Yea.


There is a net loss if this amendment ever becomes law,” said TVC Executive Director Andrea Lafferty (pictured at left, photo courtesy of Agape Press). “Protection of this sort would kill traditional marriage because it trades civil unions for marriage. Civil unions are homosexual marriages by another name. This is a poorly written resolution with an even worse sense of timing. We have just won several important court decisions in the past few weeks but the MPA proponents are still playing ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ with the liberals and the homosexual lobby. It is unlikely that the MPA will pass, and that is a good thing for traditional marriage. We need a real amendment which actually protects marriage and bans all the cheap imitations of marriage like civil unions, domestic partnerships and whichever new term the liberals concoct. And we need to involve grassroots America in this debate because activists who are fighting this battle every day are unlikely to want to horse-trade with the Left”, she continued.

Mrs. Lafferty cited a list of problems she says she and other religious conservatives have with the Marriage Protection Amendment:

1). Civil Unions = Homosexual Marriage – Matt Daniels, the Chairman of the Alliance for Marriage and the author of the amendment, told Time magazine in February 2004, the amendment was written to preserve the right of the states to enact civil unions. “The amendment would limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, but it would not outlaw civil unions, which Daniels believes should be available to all states,” the Time article reported.

2). Several courts have now established the constitutionality of state statutes which uphold traditional one man/one woman marriage while barring civil unions, domestic partnerships, etc. In Nebraska, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a lower court decision which struck down legislation as “too broad” which upheld marriage and barred civil unions. A similar decision in July by the New York Court of Appeals up held the state’s one man/one woman law. A Georgia court reinstated a marriage protection ban on homosexual marriage there and a Tennessee court ruled that voters in that state should be allowed to vote on the issue.

3). The definition of marriage must be written into the Constitution because no one state should be permitted to impose recognition of homosexual marriages on all other states under the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution. By either constitutional amendment or statute, 45 states have now taken action against same-sex marriage.

4). Some pro-family leaders have led the American people and Congress to believe that the MPA “fixes the problem” and “stops homosexual marriage” and its counterfeits. They know this is untrue and that the amendment would allow for civil unions, domestic partnerships and any other innovative synonym for marriage.

So far, the Alliance for Marriage has not responded to TVC's criticism on their website. Instead, they continue to focus on their own marriage defense activity, to include urging House members to vote for the Marriage Protection Amendment. This may be smart thinking on their part to avoid transforming a minor difference into a full-scale divisive "food-fight" within the pro-family lobby. The gay rights lobby would be the only beneficiaries of such a fight; see my previous post "The Ten-Percent Myth" for an expanded discussion of the gay rights lobby's strategy.

The TVC's concerns are understandable and not invalid. In particular, the concern over the "Full Faith and Credit" clause may be on its way to becoming redundant. If 45 states already limit marriage to one man and one woman, then there's only five states to be concerned with. However, challenges to "one man-one woman" may be successfully mounted in any of these states in the future; a Federal constitutional amendment would grant better protection against such activism.

Civil unions and domestic partnerships, while repugnant, may be necessary to not only protect the unique status of traditional marriage, but to prevent the rest of us from being required to implicitly and involuntarily subsidize homosexual relationships through our Federal taxation system. If gay marriage ever became the law of the land, gay couples would soon be allowed to file their Federal tax returns under the filing status of "Married Filing Jointly", and pay lower taxes. This would constitute implicit and involuntary subsidization of the homosexual lifestyle. Awarding gay couples civil unions or domestic partnership status could be used to prevent this from happening. Mind you, I still oppose legally-recognized civil unions or domestic partnerships, but I think the Alliance for Marriage is keeping this option open as a fallback position.

With 47 more votes needed for passage, it is unlikely that the absence of the Traditional Values Coalition's powerful persuasive efforts alone killed the deal, but the vote would have been much closer had they been on board. In any event, the favorable vote, even though short of the two-thirds majority, reflects the mainstream American attitude that marriage is to remain between one man and one woman only. It also reflects the belief that amending the Constitution is not a frivolous act but a relatively sacred act to be used sparingly and with judgment and skill.

This explains why the U.S. Constitution has been amended only 27 times, including the 10 amendments of the Bill of Rights. To raise the bar higher, a Congressionally-approved amendment must then be ratified by three-fourths of the states, and during this ratification process, states are permitted to rescind their ratifications as long as the "three-fourths" test has not been met. Rescission derailed ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment; five states originally voting to ratify subsequently voted to rescind ratification before the 1979 deadline.

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