Clergy take sides on amendment

Posted on 25 May 2006 at 10:07pm
By Associated Press

Same-sex marriage issue takes center stage around the country in next week

WASHINGTON Religious leaders are lining up in opposing coalitions over whether to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage.

A group of religious leaders calling themselves Clergy for Fairness is campaigning against any such amendment. Among its members are leaders of Reform Judaism, the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ and other denominations.

Another group, the Religious Coalition for Marriage, is lobbying for an amendment that would define marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman. Endorsers of that effort include Roman Catholic cardinals, along with leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations.

The U.S. Senate is scheduled to take up the issue in June.

Clergy for Fairness says its members have different views on rights for same-sex couples, but believes a federal marriage amendment “reflects a fundamental disregard for individual civil rights and ignores differences among our nation’s many religious traditions.”

“It is not the task of our government and elected representatives to enshrine in our laws the religious point of view of any one faith,” the group wrote in a recent letter to federal lawmakers. “Rather, our government should dedicate itself to protecting the rights of all citizens and all faiths.”

The Religious Coalition for Marriage counters that “the world’s great monotheistic religious traditions” and “impeccable social science research” agree that when marriage is “radically redefined” or is “no longer the boundary of sexual activity,” the result is damage to individuals, family life and social justice.

MARRIAGE ON THE MOVE

The seven-day stretch starting on May 31 will be a momentous one in the nation’s ongoing debate over same-sex marriage, with key events taking place in three different arenas. A brief look:

– May 31: New York State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, hears oral arguments in lawsuits filed on behalf of same-sex couples seeking the right to marry.

Court briefs supporting and opposing the suits have been filed by many national organizations. It is one of several pending lawsuits nationwide seeking same-sex marriage rights which now are provided by no state except Massachusetts.

A ruling from the Supreme Court in Washington State could come at any time.
– June 5: The U.S. Senate is scheduled to debate a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would ban gay marriage.

To become law, the proposal would need to get two-thirds support in the Senate and House, and then be ratified by at least 38 state legislatures. But at this point backers are struggling to get even half the senators to support it.

Several Republicans oppose the measure, and so far only one Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska says he’ll vote for it.

The amendment’s backers contend support will grow if more state supreme courts order legalization of same-sex unions.

– June 6: Alabama voters, as part of their primary election, will decide on a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would define marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Though the state doesn’t allow same-sex marriages now, backers of the amendment say it would add extra protection against possible future court rulings.

Nineteen states already have approved similar amendments and at least six more Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin will vote on them in November.

But efforts on behalf of such measures failed in Florida and Maryland, and have encountered obstacles in several other states.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, May 26, 2006.

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