Marriage Act DebateIt's Not About Homosexuality

Editor's Note: Father Jonathan will appear on "DaySide," Friday, May 19 at 1:20 p.m. ET to discuss the opening of "The Da Vinci Code" film.

Have we ever talked on these pages about homosexuality?

Now is not the time to do so. It would distract our attention from something much bigger going on, that is often eclipsed by insinuations of homophobia, gay-bashing, or other forms of bigotry all decent people despise.

Yesterday, with a party line 10 to 8 vote, the Judiciary Committee released to the full Senate a Congressional resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution that would legally define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It is called the Federal Marriage Amendment (HJ Res 56). The Senate is expected to debate and vote on the issue in early June. If the Senate passes the amendment with a two-thirds majority (67 senators) and if legislators of three quarters of the States then ratify the decision, the Constitution would be amended.

Is that the right thing to do for our children’s children, and theirs?

Let’s first put the issue into bipartisan, and then historical, perspective.

Bipartisan Action:

Ten years ago, Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage for purposes of federal law in the exact same way — the union of one man and one woman. The House voted in its favor, 342 to 67, and the Senate 85 to 14.

On that day Democrats united with Republicans to tell the nation the family was in peril. They were concerned the actions of a few judges and local officials could force a national overhaul of the most fundamental institution of civilization without giving citizens a chance to speak. The law was also intended to protect an individual state from having to accept the definitions of marriage established by any other state — as the Constitution otherwise may have required.

Historical Precedent:

It is hard to imagine a U.S. Constitution without its amendments. We refer to the first ten as the Bill of Rights and quote them more than any other ten articles combined. Amendments 11 - 27 are just as important to the preservation of our national identity. They include our present voting system, anti-slavery law, non-discriminatory voting rights, and limitations on the number of presidential terms. The country has prudently deciphered what additions have been necessary to preserve the relevance of the document in changing times.

Marriage and Amendments:

Our founding fathers would have bristled at the thought of defining the obvious — A union between one man and one woman? Polygamy and homosexuality are not new phenomena — George Washington saw that and a whole lot more. What is new is saying marriage has more to do with sexual rights than having children and benefiting society with the unique stability of the traditional family. Supreme Courts in New Jersey, New York, and Washington (among others) are poised to change the definition of marriage this year in their respective states. As the courts continue their social activism, the Defense of Marriage Act is losing its bite.

Polls conducted by both political parties, and even homosexual activist groups, show a majority of voters support an amendment designed to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. Our senators, however, are human beings, and they listen most to those who shout.

The best way to shout, in my opinion, is to do it quietly. Remind your senators, kindly and insistently, the Federal Marriage Act is about the family, not sex. It is not homophobic. It doesn’t bash gays. It is a pragmatic recognition of the changing times and circumstances. Ten years ago, President Clinton signed a good bill to protect the family. Today, President Bush wants to do the same, and together with members of Congress proposes a Constitutional amendment.

It may be the only way to protect the definition of what used to be obvious.

God bless, Father Jonathan

P.S. I am thinking about doing a few more pieces on this topic as we approach the senate’s debate in early June. Are you interested in hearing more?

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