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Marriage-defense amendment proposed

By BY UWE SIEMON-NETTO, UPI Religion Correspondent

WASHINGTON, May 14 (UPI) -- A constitutional amendment declaring that marriage "shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman" is to be introduced in Congress Wednesday, according to the organization that drafted it.

"A half-dozen members of the House -- three Democrats, three Republicans -- are co-sponsoring the amendment," Matthew Daniels, executive director of the Alliance for Marriage, told United Press International Tuesday.

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"Gays and lesbians have the right to live as they chose. But they don't have the right to redefine marriage for our entire society," Daniels said.

Gay rights and civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, said the amendment would invalidate domestic partnership laws in eight states and over 100 cities designed to extend civil rights protections to unmarried couples whether they are gay or straight.

The amendment would quash, for example, local laws that might allow a close friend to oppose an autopsy because of a deceased person's religious beliefs, according to the ACLU.

The amendment might also undermine state adoption laws and bar state and local governments from extending health care benefits to domestic partners, opponents said.

To become law, the amendment would have to win two-thirds majorities of both houses of Congress and then be ratified by three-fourths of state legislatures.

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Professors Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School and Robert George of Princeton University have co-authored the text of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which reads:

"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 required that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

The Alliance for Marriage is a broad coalition of prominent scholars, religious and civic leaders. Its board of advisors includes civil rights Walter Fountroy, former District of Columbia delegate and organizer of Martin Luther King's 1963 March on Washington. Fountroy now heads the National Black Leadership Roundtable.

In an interview, Daniels expressed confidence that the amendment would pass in the House. "We already have almost the three-quarters of the states required to ratify it," he added. "The real battle will take place in the Senate."

The amendment's object is to "protect the legal status of marriage from any change by the courts, which buy into the argument of the gay movement," Daniels went on.

He was referring to the argument of gay rights activists that laws limiting marriage to the union of two genders discriminated against homosexuals in the same way laws in Southern states once turned blacks into second-class citizens.

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The Alliance for Marriage claims to represent several of the largest African-American denominations, millions of Latinos, Asian-Americans, Jews and Muslims.

Its Board of Advisors includes Bishop George McKinney of the huge Church of God in Christ, an African-American denomination, Patricia DeVeaux of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Vernon Shannon of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

Other members are Sayyid Sayeed, secretary-general of the Islamic Society of North America, the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, president of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, Diane Knippers, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, Episcopal Peter Beckwith of Illinois and Stephen Jecko of Florida, Grand Rabbi Y.A. Korff, and Rabbi Daniel Lapin.

According to Daniels, the amendment's introduction "is the beginning of the final phase of the great cultural debate over the legal status of marriage. It is sending a positive message to our children about marriage, family and their future."

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