The Federal Marriage Amendment: a hill to die on

The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled Nov. 17 that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Strangely, they left the actual crafting of new law to the state legislature, giving them 180 days to fix the problem. This is not, as some on both sides of the issue are saying, the shot heard ’round the world. That happened last June. The Massachusetts decision is the devastating volley that follows a first shot.

In June, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Texas anti-sodomy law, advocates of special rights for homosexuals said that this decision was no threat to America or the institution of marriage. With their other mouths, they called it a watershed decision. I believe the second mouth now as I did then. Something big has happened. The second step toward a very dark place for America.

I know I may be preaching to the choir here. Readers of the TEXAN are not generally fans of homosexual behavior. On the other hand, many biblically orthodox Christians, including some Texas Baptists, say and do contradictory things on this subject. We cluck our tongues and wonder how we got to this point. We wonder why nobody did anything.

Maybe we can see a clue in the poll published by the Dallas Morning News the day after the Massachusetts court decision. The poll indicates that a significant majority of Americans believe homosexual behavior is a sin. Among evangelicals, the margin is substantially greater. A somewhat smaller majority oppose homosexual marriage. Already we see a disconnect.

If homosexuality is a sin, it is ultimately a choice, not a condition. If a group of Americans define themselves by a behavior most of us call sinful, why would any of us favor granting them special rights based solely on that behavior? It continues. A majority of likely voters of both parties claim to oppose homosexual marriage. As expected, that margin is greater with those who plan to vote for George Bush, but still, a majority of Democrats agree with the Bush voters on this issue. There is no mandate for vacating the institution of marriage. The opposite seems true.

And yet, many of these same folks will vote for a candidate who will not support a national family amendment to the Constitution or who will, like our last president, support special treatment for a class of people defined by deviate sexual behavior. Some folks will vote for senators and representatives far more liberal than themselves on this issue. Others of us, some of you perhaps, will not vote at all. At least one of two things is true. These voters or non-voters are essentially irrational, or they do not consider this an important issue. They consider it less important than, say, how good-looking a candidate is or how he spells “potato.”

How does this happen? That’s how. We vote against our convictions on morality, hoping our guesses about economics will pay off. Or we just don’t vote at all.

It is important. We can imagine some of the results of assigning legal equivalency to just anything people might want to call a family. That means they can adopt children, maintain custody after a divorce, and do anything else legally married people can now do. It normalizes, ultimately, a behavior and gives it the same status as any morally neutral human condition. This is a new thing. Currently, we cannot discriminate against a white, brown-haired, Baptist, Romanian male for any of those descriptive reasons. If he is also a drug addict, we might deny him some responsibilities because of that behavior–regardless of if he has a genetic disposition to drug addiction. The behavior affects his fitness for some responsibilities. This makes sense. Homosexuality is a behavior, regardless of the source of those urges. It is a behavior that affects the fitness of a person for some responsibilities. Even those who have low regard for traditional marriage must see that same-sex marriage is a terrible mistake.

Okay, back to Massachusetts. This is the first step beyond Lawrence v. Texas. The 13 states that have not passed a Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) could be forced to recognize marriages based on homosexual behavior in the coming years. States with a DOMA would be quickly challenged and face a better than average chance of losing in the U.S. Supreme Court. These are the reasons why pro-family groups consider this a bad thing. It’s also why people for the special treatment of homosexuals are so happy with the ruling. They get it and can see a multitude of next steps in what most of us consider a wrong direction.

At this point, given the state of our courts and the tenacity of the “other side,” a family amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the best, perhaps only, remedy. The wording suggested is simple, “Nothing in this Constitution (the U.S. Constitution) or any state constitution shall be construed as requiring marriage as anything other than between a man and a woman.” An amendment would require passage by 2/3 of the U.S. Congress and 38 states before becoming part of our Constitution. That’s what it takes at this point to rein in our courts. That’s why pro-family Americans must be informed and involved citizens. Every election above the county level will affect the outcome of this effort.

Obviously some will oppose the effort and pressure politicians beholden to them to defeat the amendment.  That cannot happen if those who have already stated their convictions will express those convictions on Election Day.

We can look at this unfolding process on of two ways.  We may see it as the dismantling of something positive–traditional family structure.  Only the willfully blind deny the advantages of a two-parent, male and female, loving home in the lives of children.  The other perspective is to see the rise of a destructive, new, legalized, legally-imposed description of family.  Homosexual culture is promiscuous, dangerous, and unstable.  If these things were not true, it would not change the fact that this model has never been at the foundation of a successful culture.  Never.  It is not better and it is not equivalent.  The models cannot peacefully coexist in our nation.

I agree with those who say that this is the place where we should become single issue voters if that is what it takes.  We should not support any elected leader, regardless of his beliefs or promises on any other subject, who will not support (not merely not oppose) an amendment to the Constitution that will end this judicially-imposed madness.

Go to and enter your zip code for a list and e-mail links to your national legislators.  Tell them you support a family amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Their response should tell you something you need to know.

Gary Ledbetter
Southern Baptist Texan
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