An amendment is called for
Last week, President Bush called for a Constitutional amendment to uphold the sanctity of marriage by "defining and protecting marriage as a union of a man and woman as husband and wife." His announcement has set the debate over the definition of marriage into the forefront of national discussion. The issue deserves serious attention.
In recent months, a few activist judges and local officials have sought to redefine a fundamental cornerstone of our society. These attempts to redefine marriage have come despite the fact that Congress and a majority of the states have overwhelmingly spoken in support of marriage between a man and a woman.
In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act to define marriage under Federal law as a legal union between a man and a woman as husband and wife. President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law after it passed the House 342 to 67 and the Senate 85 to 14. In all, 37 states, including Alabama, have approved similar defense of marriage laws -- demonstrating a consensus for protecting the traditional institution of marriage.
In November, the Massachusetts Supreme Court narrowly approved a ruling that will require their state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in May. City officials in San Francisco have already issued thousands of marriage licenses to same-sex couples -- in direct contradiction of a California law approved by the voters, which clearly defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. In New Mexico, a county is issuing marriage licenses to applicants of the same sex.
Without action, more arbitrary court decisions, litigation, and defiance of the law can be expected. More than 200 years of American law and thousands of years of human experience should not be changed on a whim by a handful of judges and local authorities. As President Bush said, "Their actions have created confusion on an issue that requires clarity."
The Constitution says that "full faith and credit" must be given by each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. Some advocates for same-sex marriage will argue that all states and cities must recognize same-sex marriages performed anywhere in America.
Congress attempted to address this problem in the Defense of Marriage Act, which declared that no state must accept another state's definition of marriage. However, an activist court could strike down this language -- forcing every state to recognize any relationship that a handful of judges or local officials choose to call marriage.
President Bush called on Congress to promptly pass, and to send to the states for ratification, an amendment to the Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of a man and woman as husband and wife. This amendment, H.J. Res. 56, which I have cosponsored, will fully protect the sanctity of marriage while enabling state legislatures to make their own decisions about defining legal arrangements other than marriage.
An amendment to the Constitution should not be undertaken lightly, but the preservation of marriage, the fundamental unit of our society, certainly rises to the level of national importance.