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Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

Pastors predict bleak future if local casinos open (12/28/03)

Soap, figurines, candles keep books company in Christian stores (12/21/03)

In order to form a more perfect union (11/30/03)

Federal Marriage Amendment receives Fellowship’s endorsement (11/23/03)

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Federal Marriage Amendment receives Fellowship’s endorsement

By John W. Kennedy (11/23/03)

The national leadership of the 2.7 million-member U.S. Assemblies of God recently endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment. The 17-member A/G Executive Presbytery endorsed the Federal Marriage Amendment in September, and further recommended that pastors and congregants contact congressional representatives to register support for the FMA.

The amendment would prevent courts from redefining marriage and also keep states from being forced to recognize same-sex marriage laws that might be enacted by other states.

“For too long we have sat on the sidelines watching the pro-homosexual lobby win victory after victory, especially in non-elected judiciaries,” says A/G General Secretary George O. Wood. “The only way to stop liberal non-elected judges from sanctioning the marriage of homosexuals is to adopt an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Along with other Christian groups, the A/G is hoping the proposed constitutional amendment will restore the primacy of traditional marriage in this country. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence and Garner v. Texas struck down a Texas statute against homosexual relations, thereby jeopardizing traditional marriage laws of all 50 states.

“The Lawrence decision could be a harbinger for the Supreme Court protecting homosexual marriage as an equal rights issue,” Wood told PE Report. “If it’s legal for two lesbians or two homosexuals to marry, what would prevent courts from making it legal for three or four consenting adults?”

“Laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman are in the gun sights of the courts,” says Matt Daniels, who is founder of the Springfield, Va.-based Alliance for Marriage and the impetus behind the amendment. “The Lawrence case has everything to do with the legal status of marriage.”

Daniels says the Lawrence ruling, coupled with the expected pro-homosexual marriage decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Goodridge v. Massachusetts Department of Public Health — in which seven same-sex couples claim they have a fundamental, constitutional right to marry — has national implications for traditional marriage. Because of the full faith and credit clause in Article 4 of the U.S. Constitution, the Goodridge verdict could invalidate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), overwhelmingly passed by Congress and quickly signed by President Clinton only seven years ago.

“Once they win in Massachusetts, they will file other lawsuits invoking false constitutional arguments for why the destruction of marriage should be forced upon every other state,” Daniels says.

The solution, according to Daniels, is a constitutional amendment. He believes it is doable, considering that 37 states — one short of the necessary three-fourths for a constitutional amendment — already have passed DOMA-like laws since 1995.

A federal amendment has been passed only 27 times in the nation’s history. To be enacted, an amendment first needs two-thirds ratification by Congress. The two-thirds passage by the Senate — where it hasn’t been introduced yet — could be the toughest part, Daniels admits.

First-term U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, an Assemblies of God member from Colorado, has introduced legislation in the House. So far, it has attracted 99 co-sponsors, including the other two A/G U.S. House representatives, Todd Tiahrt of Kansas and Jo Ann Davis of Virginia.

“In this cultural war we cannot lose this one,” Musgrave says. “Christians have a responsibility to see that people in office do the right thing.” Musgrave, who has been the target of much hate mail and media vilification for her stance, says legalization of homosexual marital unions would impact everything from public school teachings on heterosexual marriage to Christians’ free speech.

The FMA is succinct: “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, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.” It says nothing about tangential issues such as domestic partnerships and civil unions, which would be left to the states.

“We believe that marriage was instituted by God as the fundamental institution for human society,” Wood says. “Recognition of homosexual marriage is the spear point of the homosexual agenda in an attempt to change the whole social structure of America.”

There has been a backlash since the Lawrence ruling. A May Gallup Poll found that 49 percent of the population favored allowing homosexual marriages, compared to 39 percent a month later. Yet politicians have been reticent to enter the fray lest they be characterized as right-wing Christian bigots. The Alliance for Marriage, however, has been lining up broad-based support not only from evangelicals but also from mainline Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Orthodox and Muslim groups.

“Marriage is the single most universal human social institution,” Daniels told PE Report. “It transcends every racial, cultural and religious boundary line.”

Daniels notes that courts in the 1990s in Hawaii and Alaska sanctioned homosexual marriage, but legislatures in both states later approved constitutional amendments restricting marriage to heterosexual couples. In 2000, the Vermont legislature, upon orders from the state supreme court, authorized “civil unions” between homosexuals that extended marriage benefits and protections to same-sex couples.

“Ultimately homosexual activists understand they cannot transform America the way they want as long as laws recognize the unique nature of marriage between a male and female,” says Daniels, citing faith-based organizations, churches and even home schools as potential targets to recognize the validity of homosexual marriage. “If we lose this debate, it’s only a starting point, not the end result. The moral and social DNA of our culture will be changed forever.”

Daniels commends the Fellowship for taking a stand, saying that Christians who do nothing don’t understand how courts will erode existing legal marriage protections.

“This is not simply another issue,” Daniels says. “This is one of the greatest social and moral debates our nation will ever face. It’s on a par with other historical debates, like the debate over slavery.”

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