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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
January 28, 2005

U.S. marriage ban amendment is back

Rightist group warns Bush to get behind it or lose Social Security support

Washington, D.C.--Sen. Wayne Allard of Colorado reintroduced a proposed U.S. constitutional ban on same-sex marriage on January 24.

Newly christened as the Marriage Protection Amendment, the measure was defeated last year, when it was called the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Despite Republican gains in the Senate and Allard immediately signing 12 sponsors for the bill, it is unlikely that he will be able to muster the two-thirds supermajority needed to pass a constitutional amendment.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, also of Colorado, announced that she plans to introduce the same amendment in the House of Representatives.

Those pushing for the measure�s passage may have to do so without much support from the White House.

Last year, President Bush called for the amendment in his State of the Union address. But this time, he said in a January 16 Washington Post interview: �Senators have made it clear that so long as DOMA [the federal Defense of Marriage Act] is deemed constitutional, nothing will happen. I�d take their admonition seriously.�

Bush continued, �Until that changes, nothing will happen in the Senate.�

His spokesman, Scott McClellan, said that Bush was �willing to spend political capital� on the matter, but thought that it would not be enough to get it passed.

�The FMA has gone unmentioned by Bush since the election--and it appears more and more like a pre-election ploy rather than a principled stand,� said conservative gay pundit Andrew Sullivan.

Reactions from both the left and the right to Bush�s statements and Allard�s reintroduction of the amendment were swift.

�We should be asking Sen. Allard and his co-signers and supporters why they want to divert needed resources from more important issues this country is facing, such as education, health insurance, prescription drugs and national security,� said Stonewall Columbus executive director Kate Anderson. �Even President Bush in his inaugural address called for an end to bigotry when he said, �Our country must abandon all the habits of racism, because we cannot carry a message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time�.�

�This is clearly political payback,� said Democratic National Committee chair Terry McAuliffe. �The only reason Washington Republicans would introduce a measure that has already failed is to appease a small group of right-wing extremists who are now running their party. The majority of Americans believe in extending legal protections to same-sex couples and are opposed to this divisive amendment.�

Bush�s lack of vocal support for the measure brought threats from leading religious right arch-conservatives that their support of Social Security reform might be dependent on the White House�s efforts on behalf of the amendment.

�Is he prepared to spend significant political capital on privatization but reluctant to go devote the same energy to preserving traditional marriage?� a January 18 letter from the Arlington Group, quoted in the New York Times, asks. �If so, it would create outrage with countless voters who stood with him just a few weeks ago, including an unprecedented number of African-Americans, Latinos and Catholics who broke with tradition and supported the president solely because of this issue.�

The Arlington Group is composed of far-right leaders including the Family Research Council�s Tony Perkins, Paul Weyrich, Jerry Falwell, James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family, and representatives from the Southern Baptist Convention and the American Family Association.

The letter fails to note, however, that a large number of African-American voters who supported state marriage amendments also voted for Sen. John Kerry, and accusations of voter disenfranchisement in African-American districts were common.

�This amendment was soundly defeated in the last Congress, ad for good reason,� said Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way, a group advocating separation of church and state. �The United States Constitution is the foundation of our freedom, and has never been amended to single out one group of Americans for discrimination.�

�The American people value freedom, not discrimination,� Winnie Stachelberg, political director of the Human Rights Campaign concurred. �Americans want laws that ensure the safety and stability of their neighbors, and that�s what our policymakers should be focused on.�

�Pushing an amendment that would deny protections to millions of Americans is completely out of step with our nation�s values,� she concluded.

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