House Vote On Marriage Amendment Is Election-year Stunt, Charges Americans United

Sept. 30 Vote Is Intended To Give Election Ammo To Religious Right, Watchdog Group Says

Tomorrow's House of Representatives vote on a "Federal Marriage Amendment" (FMA) is an election-year ploy designed to help the Religious Right launch political attacks as the Nov. 2 election approaches, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"The Senate has already sidetracked this divisive and unwise amendment," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "The only reason for this vote is to give the Christian Coalition and similar groups another line item on their biased 'voter guides.'"

The constitutional amendment, which is being heavily promoted by Religious Right organizations, would limit marriage to one man and one woman. It is designed to outlaw same-sex marriages.

Americans United says the proposal (H.J. Res. 106), introduced by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.), is unnecessary. The group notes that some religious traditions recognize same-sex unions and some do not. The government, AU says, should not elevate the views and practices of certain faith groups over others.

Lynn noted that during a national meeting of the Christian Coalition in Washington, D.C., Sept. 23-25, staffers with the group bragged that they would distribute millions of "voter guides" this year.

The guides, Coalition Field Director Bill Thomson said, "are our greatest weapon. It is the best weapon in our arsenal. It is our B-2 bomber."

In addition, the Family Research Council (FRC) has pledged to include three FMA-related votes on its congressional scorecards this year. (The FRC will even rate lawmakers on whether they cosponsored the amendment.)

The Coalition, the FRC and other Religious Right groups, Americans United asserts, are eager to get a vote on the FMA, put the results on guides and scorecards and use them to tip the balance in close House races around the country.

"It's sad to see the House act at the behest of extreme groups like the Christian Coalition and the Family Research Council," said Lynn. "If members of Congress have nothing better to do than engineer phony votes like this, they should do the taxpayers a favor and declare an early recess."

A wide array of religious organizations opposes the amendment. More than two dozen faith groups sent a letter to House members today, urging them to reject the FMA. Among the signers were: the Alliance of Baptists; the American Friends Service Committee (Quaker); the American Jewish Committee; the Episcopal Church, USA; the Loretto Women's Network (Catholic Order); the Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the National Sikh Center; the Metropolitan Community Churches; the Office of the General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); the Union for Reform Judaism; the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations and the United Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministries.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.