[NOW Action List] Oppose Discriminatory Marriage Amendment
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NOW Action Alert
Support NOW's Work  |   July 8, 2004   |  Tell a Friend

Action Needed

Background

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NOW and Lesbian Rights

Urge Senators to Oppose Discriminatory Marriage Amendment

Action Needed:

Email your senators today to let them know that you expect them to stand up against discrimination by voting against the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA). The Senate Republican leadership moved up the date to tomorrow, July 9, to begin debate on FMA which, if passed, would become the first amendment to write discrimination into the U.S. Constitution. A vote is expected next week.

Background:

The Federal Marriage Amendment, sponsored by Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), would amend the U.S. Constitution to read "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman."

The FMA would permanently ban same-sex marriage in every state, but has not yet generated the political fervor that right wing politicians were expecting. This issue has become surprisingly divisive within the Republican Party, an outcome which was not originally anticipated by proponents of the amendment. Many members of Congress who oppose same-sex marriage nonetheless do not want to amend the Constitution to include a ban; some members of both parties say that this is an issue that should be left up to the states. Forty-four states have enacted laws prohibiting same-sex marriage.

Despite the fact that many members of Congress believe that the amendment will not receive the needed votes to pass in either house, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has scheduled the vote to take place the week before the Democratic National Convention. Additionally, Sen. Frist said that it was time to begin congressional action to block "activist judges" from interpreting equality protections in the Consitution to cover same-sex marriage. NOW and other national organizations have repeatedly criticized public officials who are attempting to politicize our judicial system in this manner.

On the House side, Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) has said that he does not want to schedule a vote until there is a clear majority in support of the legislation. The House measure is H.J. Res. 56, and is sponsored by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R- Colo.)

Marriage in the United States usually consists of two components, civil marriage and religious ceremony. Freedom of religion guarantees each church the right to decide whether or not to marry same-sex couples; however, federal and state governments should not be allowed to deny rights to any individual based on sex or sexual orientation. Some religions have already chosen to recognize same-sex marriages, although only one state currently allows same-sex marriage by law.

Conservatives assert that by allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, activist judges have redefined the family, putting thousands of children ?at risk? of being raised by same-sex couples. However, same-sex couples have been raising children for decades during which several studies have assessed the effect of same-sex parents on child development. Dr. Jill Joseph testified recently before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and cited 23 studies performed between 1978 and 2000 which examined the effects on children being raised by gay or lesbian parents. Scientists who reviewed the studies said that children raised by same-sex couples did not differ significantly from the other children tested on any of the outcomes.

Voting down this amendment is incredibly important, not only because it is a matter of restricting civil rights, but also because it is an election year and it is imperative that those senators willing to vote against a ban on gay marriage during their re-election campaigns do not suffer a loss as a result. We must stand against the amending of the Constitution for the sole purpose of exclusion, discrimination, and restriction, all of which are in direct opposition to our national goal to protect civil liberties and freedoms. And, we must oppose this cynical strategy to use the very personal and profoundly important matter of marriage as a wedge issue to divide the public and intimidate candidates for elected office.

Please take action today.

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