Christian Conservatives Split on Federal Marriage Amendment

"Law would protect marriage from courts, but legislatures could still extend marital benefits to same-sex unions"

The Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA), which would define marriage in the Constitution as "only of the union of a man and a woman," was introduced into the House on May 15. The bill is supported by a diverse bipartisan coalition of organizations and politicians. Backers of the FMA cross racial, cultural, and religious lines with support coming from Jews, Christians, Muslims as well as liberals and conservatives. The bill is sponsored in the House by three Democrats and three Republicans.

However, conservative Christian groups are split on whether to endorse it. Several pro-family organizations such as Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America have expressed dissatisfaction with the FMA, while backers include the Southern Baptist Convention, Focus on the Family, several Catholic dioceses, and the Traditional Values Coalition.

The two-sentence amendment (H.J. 93), drafted last year by the Alliance for Marriage, states that marriage is an exclusively male-female union. If the amendment becomes law, it would restrict state legislatures from using the word marriage to describe same-sex relationships. It would also disable courts from recognizing any same-sex marriage or determining the allocation of marital benefits.

No state currently recognizes same-sex unions as "marriage." Vermont recognizes same-sex "civil unions," while others allow gay and lesbian person to benefit from a partner's insurance. Under the FMA, the authority to decide on marital benefits would remain with each state.

Many conservative groups favor a constitutional amendment defining marriage but say the FMA's definition is too weak. They complain that the amendment still allows state legislatures to extend marital privileges to same-sex relationships ...

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