Land Mine: Is Marriage Amendment Madness About To Break Out Again?

Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling against California’s Proposition 8 spurred the predictable round of incendiary rhetoric from the Religious Right. Chuck Colson said it could mean Armageddon for religious liberty, TV preacher Pat Robertson said gay people want to destroy the church and destroy marriage and the American Family Association’s Tim Wildmon demanded that the U.S. House impeach Walker.

Sigh.

That kind of irresponsible talk is bad enough. Even more worrisome, however, is the reaction from other just-as-extreme but politically savvier Religious Right leaders. They don’t want to just rant and rave; they want to change the U.S. Constitution!

Southern Baptist lobbyist Richard Land told Baptist Press News Service that the Perry v. Schwarzenegger decision should lead to a renewed campaign to pass a Federal Marriage Amendment.

Said Land, “If the Supreme Court fails to uphold the will of the people of California -- if we are going to have our form of government altered by judicial fiat -- then the only alternative left to us is to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman.”

TV talk show host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee took the same tack.

“I believe it's time for a federal constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman,” said Huckabee, a Religious Right favorites and former Southern Baptist pastor.” That is the only action that will truly protect marriage.”

We’ve been through this before. In 2005 and ‘06, Religious Right forces and their sectarian allies tried to push a Federal Marriage Amendment through the U.S. Senate. They want to rewrite the Constitution to reflect the teachings of the majority faiths, restricting marriage to one man and one woman.

Americans United and others who believe in religious liberty and individual freedom fought back, and the measure failed in a June 7, 2006, procedural vote.

We were pleased to find large numbers of allies among American clergy who did not want to see discrimination written into our nation’s governing document. Many of them spoke out through Clergy for Fairness, a specially organized movement intended to keep the Constitution a beacon of freedom, not a monument to bigotry.

A marriage amendment is unlikely to pass in Congress in the near future, but Religious Right agitation for it could easily be used as a tool of political demagoguery in elections this fall.

Americans who believe in equality and church-state separation need to be on the alert.

Memo to the Religious Right: Keep your theocratic hands off our Constitution!