Nov 08, 2005

A U.S. Senate panel should reject a Religious Right-driven attempt to amend the Constitution to bar same-sex marriage, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

On Nov. 9, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights will once again consider a proposed amendment to the Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages throughout the country.

“Senators should get to work on the many challenges facing this nation instead of pandering to the Religious Right,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “This proposal needs to be soundly defeated.”

The so-called “Marriage Protection Amendment” (S.J.Res.1) states, “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.”

Said AU’s Lynn, “This amendment is a constitutional catastrophe in the making. It would undercut the First Amendment by granting officially favored status to some religions’ beliefs on marriage, while making other faiths’ marriages illegal.” 

Some of the anti-gay marriage amendment’s most ardent supporters in the Senate include Religious Right favorites such as Sens. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and President George W. Bush have also claimed that an anti-gay marriage amendment is needed to ensure the “sanctity” of marriage.

Lynn sent a letter to the Judiciary subcommittee urging rejection of the amendment.

“Our nation’s founders,” Lynn wrote, “adopted the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses precisely because they foresaw the dangers posed by the government’s decision to align itself with certain religions over others. Americans United strongly believes that Congress must continue to protect the nation’s fundamental religious freedoms. It should reject any attempt to curtail civil rights at the behest of politically powerful religious groups seeking to impose their theological understanding of marriage on all Americans by constitutional fiat.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a Nov. 8 editorial urged U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) “to be a voice of reason” in the committee’s consideration of the amendment. The Post-Gazette dubbed Santorum, the other Pennsylvania senator, a “hopeless case on this issue” and noted that the “real symbolism at work here is about picking on a few to appease the many while neglecting the nation’s real problems.”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.