After weeks of lawlessness by municipal officials in granting illegal marriage licences, U.S. President George W. Bush announced on Feb. 24 that he will seek to amend the U.S. Constitution to enshrine the traditional definition of marriage in the highest law of the land, making it impervious to judicial challenges and the actions of individual states.
The proposed 28th amendment would require two-thirds approval by members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, plus ratification by three-quarters of the 50 states.
The president said, “After more than two centuries of American jurisprudence, and millennia of human experience, a few judges and local authorities are presuming to change the most fundamental institution of civilization. Their actions have created confusion on an issue that requires clarity.”
He continued, “On a matter of such importance, the voice of the people must be heard. Activist courts have left the people with one recourse. If we are to prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever, our nation must enact a constitutional amendment to protect marriage in America. Decisive and democratic action is needed, because attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences throughout the country.”
The consequences Bush refers to are in relation to the “full faith and credit” clause of the Constitution, which basically says that the public and judicial acts of individual states must be recognized by other states. Hence, redefining marriage in one jurisdiction, such as Massachusetts, may start a domino effect and force other states to recognize homosexual marriages performed in the first jurisdiction as legitimate.
The president left no uncertainty as to the importance he places on defending marriage. He said, “The union of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution, honoured and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith. Ages of experience have taught humanity that the commitment of a husband and wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society. Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society. Government, by recognizing and protecting marriage, serves the interests of all.”
Cheryl Jacques, of the homosexual lobby group Human Rights Campaign, responded, “The president said he wanted to proceed with kindness, goodwill and decency – make no mistake, that is not possible. It is neither kind nor decent to discriminate against Americans and deny them critical rights. Instead of pulling the country together to fight terrorism and meet our common challenges, the president is now working to divide the country with a long and bitter political fight over the Constitution.”
However, Dr. James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family, was overjoyed to see the president commit to defending marriage. “President Bush’s endorsement of a federal marriage amendment today is the lynchpin in efforts to protect marriage in our country. The president clearly understands that families formed through the union of one man and one woman are best for America and America’s children. His comments should signal to Congress and the states that only an amendment to the U.S. Constitution can adequately address the inevitable showdown between the courts and the will of the American people, as expressed through their elected representatives.”