July 19th, 2004
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An Alternative Path to Protecting Marriage
The Federal Marriage Amendment failed to garner the 60 votes it needed to advance, with only 48 Senators voting in favor. The Senate is much more evenly divided than the American people, 60% of whom support the amendment.
Critics of the FMA argue that Republicans at the national level are taking marriage policy away from the states with the Federal Marriage Amendment. But the FMA still has to be ratified by the states in order to become part of the Constitution. Rather than a vote for states' rights, the vote against the FMA left the decision in the hands of the U.S. Senate instead of with the states.
However, I am not thrilled with the idea of defining marriage at the federal level. The defeat of the FMA now leaves conservatives with an opportunity to rethink the FMA and pursue an alternate course to preserving marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The Defense of Marriage Act passed by a wide margin in 1996 and was signed into law by disgraced ex-President Clinton with a simple premise: states will not be forced to recognize same-sex "marriages" performed in other states. DOMA falls under the authority given to Congress under the Constitution, but activist judges may apply their own "interpretation" of the Constitution and strike DOMA down.
Instead of an amendment that would prohibit homosexual "marriage" all together, Congress should consider codifying the DOMA into the Constitution and making sure states retain the power to set their own marriage laws. This would embrace the principle of federalism and, given DOMA's popularity, would stand a better chance of passing the Senate.
This vote illustrates the inconsistency of Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry, who profess to oppose homosexual "marriage" but not a constitutional amendment forbidding it. Kerry and others who give lip-service to opposing homosexual "marriage" know that as the matter winds its way through the court system, it becomes more likely that the courts will declare it a constitutional right for homosexuals to get "married". Conservatives should continue to call Kerry out on this.
Allowing the courts to force homosexual "marriage" on the states would hasten the decline of marriage as an institution. Marriage's traditional role as a child-bearing institution would be diminished and respect for marriage will decline. Democrats, including Kerry, argue that this is not an issue that is essential, but protecting marriage from another attack on it is at the core of America's health as a nation. Without strong marriages and families, America cannot hope to remain strong as a country.
However, Conservatives should not place too much faith in this amendment in protecting marriage. The problem America faces with regard to the declining state of marriage is cultural, not governmental. A look at the illegitimacy rate and the number of unwed couples "cohabitating" reveals that the institution of marriage is under attack and will remain so even if the FMA were passed and ratified by the time you finish reading this. Keeping marriage as an institution between one man and one woman is important, but it is only one facet of the need to strengthen marriage.
Republicans are concerned at appearing "intolerant" if they are too aggressive in supporting the FMA. This is something Christians should take note of as well. While not backing down from the Bible's clear condemnation of homosexuality, Christians need to be careful to reach out to homosexuals with the Gospel's good news, not simply condemn their sin. Jesus urged us to consider the "beam" in our own eyes as opposed to the speck in our neighbor's eyes to keep us humble. This does not mean that we are to not speak the truth of God's Word, but that we must do so in humility and love, not in a self-righteous manner that places ourselves above others.