Politics & Policy

Power to The People

The FMA vote is coming up soon--and you can bet your senators are listening.

If you believe the core purpose of marriage is to bind children to their mothers and fathers, you might want to contact your senators. Sometime in the middle of July, the Senate will take its first vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment. Your help is needed.

#ad#Marriage is not meant solely, or even mainly, for husbands and wives. Marriage exists as a public institution because children need mothers and fathers. Once marriage is treated as a mere celebration of the love of two adults, there is no reason for it to necessarily happen before children are born instead of after. And if marriage could just as well happen after children are born, it doesn’t really need to happen at all. European parents have increasingly stopped marrying because they no longer think of marriage as an institution meant to bind children to their mothers and fathers.

Gay marriage helps Europeans see it that way, making them consider marriage nothing more than the expression of mutual affection between two adults. But this view translates into marrying long after children are born–if parents don’t break up first. It means rising rates of parental cohabitation, and higher rates of family dissolution. That’s what’s happening in Europe. Do we want it to happen in America?

Last week, Maggie Gallagher reported on an important new development in Massachusetts. State documents are now referring to husbands and wives as “Party A” and “Party B,” and to mothers and fathers as “Parent A” and “Parent B.” Is this going to help us drive home the idea that children need mothers and fathers? Is this going to help us convince single teen fathers to marry? And this is only the first of a long series of legal consequences that will pull us down the slippery slope, to a place where marriage has effectively been eliminated.


We hear a lot from folks who deny that gay marriage has harmed European marriage, or who dismiss the dangers of the slippery slope. But my guess is that you see what I’m saying, and believe me only too well. That’s the problem: Because it is in fact so easy to see the harmful effects of gay marriage, it’s easy to feel discouraged.

With the mainstream media determined to tell only one side of the story, you probably haven’t even heard about the opposition gay marriage has stirred around the world. Australian Prime Minister John Howard has asked parliament to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Last week, the British House of Lords successfully blocked the government’s plan for same-sex civil unions. The press plays up news favorable to gay marriage, yet downplays stories like these.

In America, there has been a tremendous amount of opposition to same-sex marriage on the state level, little of which has been reported by the national media. Many states are strengthening DOMAs, and several states are expected to vote this fall on constitutional amendments defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. With the upcoming vote in the U.S. Senate, the action now moves to the federal level.

Ultimately, the marriage issue is going to be resolved nationally. Either the Supreme Court will nationalize gay marriage, or we shall have a Federal Marriage Amendment. The states have always had the power to regulate the specifics of marriage. Yet the fundamental definition of marriage has always been a matter for the nation: That’s why Utah’s admission to the union was conditioned on its abandonment of polygamy. (For more on the federalism issue, see my “National Nuptials.”)


This will be the first time Congress has voted on the Federal Marriage Amendment, but it won’t be the last. The ultimate showdown will come sometime in the next few years, probably after a lawsuit attempting to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act makes it clear that the issue is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. But this vote is an essential step in building long-term support for the Federal Marriage Amendment. It’s time for senators to go on record on this issue, and to be held accountable for their views by the voters.

Opponents of FMA say the issue shouldn’t be “politicized.” But it wasn’t the president or the Republicans who ordered Massachusetts to legalize same-sex marriage on May 17. The advocates of same-sex marriage controlled the timing of this issue. In any case, how odd to argue that a fundamental change in society’s central institution should not be a matter for democratic decision-making! The problem with this issue is that gay-marriage advocates have been using the courts–and even deliberate and systematic violation of the law–to get around democracy. It’s high time that this debate was put back into the hands of the American people. So let the Senate go on record, and let senators justify their positions to the public.

You’d be amazed how much you can do to affect the outcome of this vote. The press may do its best to keep you in the dark about the depth of opposition to this fundamental redefinition of marriage, but you can bet that opposition is out there. If even a portion of those who actually oppose same-sex marriage take the time and trouble to contact their senators, it could make a real difference in the outcome of the vote. If you don’t already realize it, senators carefully count up constituent mail and phone calls. If you call, it will matter.


It’s tough to think of an issue more important to society than marriage. But now there’s even more at stake than marriage itself. The extralegal tactics of the mayor of San Francisco–and his imitators in New Mexico, New York, and New Jersey–have not been forgotten. Even in socially liberal France, a mayor who performed illegal marriages was punished. Yet in America, nothing has happened to those who took the law into their own hands. And again, in Massachusetts, mayors and town clerks deliberately and systematically broke the law restricting marriages to in-state couples. We know that gay-marriage advocates have tolerated–even loudly supported–this sort of law breaking. And we know that the courts are watching and waiting to see if their usurpation of democratic prerogatives is rebuked by the public.

If the public doesn’t move to show that it disapproves not only of gay marriage but also of judicial activism and open flouting of the law, then the Left will never have reason to hold back. If judges, and activists willing to break the law, can force a change on the American people against their will, they will know that they can do it again and again. So it’s not just marriage that’s at stake here, it’s the role of the courts in society–even the rule of law itself.

Sending a thoughtful e-mail to your senators asking them to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment is a good idea. But it’s often just as powerful–or more so–to phone your senators through the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You can also call your senators’ district offices to ask them to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment. If you use snail mail, you’d better write quickly: Senate security screening can delay mail, and the vote is coming up soon.

Stanley Kurtz — Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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