Protecting Marriage

July Column

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Washington, July 26, 2006 | McCall Avery ((202) 225-4201) | comments
Our Constitution is not easily amended. When drafting the document, our Founding Fathers created what they knew would be a challenging set of requirements for changing their original work.
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Our Constitution is not easily amended.  When drafting the document, our Founding Fathers created what they knew would be a challenging set of requirements for changing their original work.

They were successful in their aims.  More than 200 years since they adopted our Constitution and Bill of Rights, it has only been amended 17 times.  Clearly, we do not take lightly the prospect of amending our foundational document.  

However, I believe we currently have before us an issue that rises to such a level.

That issue is marriage.  Though simple and straightforward in wording, the federal Marriage Protection Amendment carries great significance – making it clear that marriage in America is the union of one man and one woman.

Many argue that, while important, this is not an issue that merits amending the Constitution.  As someone who takes very seriously the prospect of amending our nation’s founding document, I wish that this were so.  Unfortunately, it’s not.

Whether we as a nation like it or not, America’s courts have taken an increasingly activist role in public policy.  Many of our nation’s courts and judges have taken it upon themselves to create laws, rather than interpret them.

Because of this, current law protecting marriage, such as the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), has become the top target of those who wish to redefine marriage in America.  It is only a matter of time before an activist court, following the example set by Massachusetts, strikes this law down.  The result would be a redefinition of marriage imposed on the entire nation by a handful of unelected judges.

This issue addresses the single most fundamental relationship recognized by the law.  Accordingly, the people deserve a say on it, and the Marriage Protection Amendment is the only way to ensure that happens.  

It’s interesting to note the results when the people do get the chance to have their voices heard on the issue of marriage.  Since the 2004 Massachusetts court ruling recognizing same-sex “marriage,” the states have begun putting this issue on statewide ballots in the form of amendments to their own state constitutions.  

Forty-five states have passed laws or constitutional amendments defining marriage between a man and a woman to protect traditional marriage from being redefined for them.  Each time this has been put before the people, it has passed with a strong majority.  In fact, more than half of the state amendments have passed with a majority of 70 percent or greater.  The “closest” vote was in Oregon, a left-leaning state where the opposition thought they had the best chance of defeating it.  It passed with 58 percent of the vote.

These numbers show that the people understand the importance of this issue.  They understand intuitively what social statistics show us empirically: the best way for children to be raised is by their own mom and dad, in a loving and supportive home.

But, if we allow liberal unelected judges to redefine marriage above the objections of the vast majority of Americans, this building block of society and safe harbor for raising children will come under heavy fire.

The most effective way to address this issue is an amendment to the United States Constitution.  While neither the U.S. House nor the Senate has yet demonstrated that it has the two-thirds majority needed to pass such an amendment, we should not be deterred from continuing to address it in Congress.  The voters deserve to know where their elected representatives stand on this crucial issue.

The Founders never envisioned that changing our Constitution would be easy.  But, when the groundswell of grassroots support has grown large enough, amendments have been passed.

By continuing to address this issue, Congress can increase awareness on the need to protect marriage.  Marriage is worth defending, and the Marriage Protection Amendment is the best way to do it.   While the House did not garner the two-thirds majority necessary to change the Constitution this week, we will keep coming back to this issue until we succeed.

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