Groups push to define marriage

IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY — Vermont is the only state to legalize same-sex marriages. This civil union law seems to have prompted a strong reaction from numerous conservative groups who are now proposing a marriage amendment to the Constitution.

The constitutional amendment would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Steve Aiken, director of communications for the Traditional Values Coalition, said they are just one of the several conservative groups working in favor of the amendment.

“[The Traditional Values Coalition is] a coalition of over 43,000 churches,” he said. “We primarily lobby on Capitol Hill in Washington for legislation that maintains traditional family values and is obviously against what we find counter to family traditions.”

Aiken said the coalition considers gay and lesbian marriages to be against the traditions they are trying to uphold.

“What we’re trying to do … by establishing a constitutional amendment [is] to once and for all establish that marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said. “We’re trying to preserve what has been historically true. What has been historically true is that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Ben Stone, executive director of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, said gay marriages should be recognized.

“We believe that the civil liberties of everyone should include the opportunity to love whoever you want,” he said. “[Marriage] provides legal protection, it recognizes the legitimacy of the relationship and there is no valid reason for the government to refuse that right to anyone.”

Aiken said this amendment is not yet on the floor of the House or the Senate, but the coalition is trying to gauge responses to the possibility of the amendment.

“The response we’re getting is overwhelmingly positive,” he said.

Stone said the American Civil Liberties Union is hesitant to think the Constitution should be amended very often.

“I think more people need to have respect for the Constitution,” he said.

Stone thinks the marriage amendment would be abusing the Constitution by limiting the rights of the people it is supposed to protect.

“I can’t think of an amendment that restricts individual rights,” he said. “That is not the point of the Constitution. They’re trying to use the Constitution as a mallet to beat down individual liberties. That’s not the role of our Constitution.”

Although the Traditional Values Coalition supports the amendment to the Constitution, Aiken said they wish it wasn’t necessary.

“If the traditional values weren’t under attack by militant homosexuals, this amendment wouldn’t even been needed,” he said. “The sanctity of marriage needs to be preserved.”

Aiken said the amendment is a direct reaction to the gay community’s actions. He said the coalition doesn’t hate the gay community, but feels they are too public with their sex lives.

“How someone practices sex doesn’t belong in the open market,” Aiken said. “It’s a private matter. It doesn’t belong in public schools. It doesn’t belong in much of the media today. We only react to their actions.”

Stone said the proposed amendment may be a response from people who are scared that the legitimacy of same-sex marriages will be realized.

“Maybe they want an amendment because they’re worried that in 5 or 10 or 20 years, the majority of the people will come around and believe what a minority of people believe now,” he said.

Carolyn Cutrona, president of the Ames chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays) and associate director of psychology, said she is strongly against the amendment.

“I have a lesbian daughter, and I think that a long-term relationship is the greatest treasure on earth,” Cutrona said. “I feel that her relationship, someday, with another woman that she loves will be just as holy and important and deserving of recognition as the marriage between her father and I.”

“It’s just an obvious instance of homophobia,” said David Wallace, member of the board of directors for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Student Services. “I think it would be a significant step in reversing the trend for acceptance. That would be unfortunate.”

If the amendment were to pass, Wallace said it would greatly affect the gay community.

“I think that a fight over this issue might have a galvanizing effect over the LGTBA community,” said Wallace, associate professor of English. “We might see more activism. I think there would be a great chance for backlash against the people that are proposing it.”

For the marriage amendment to pass, it would need to be ratified by both houses of Congress or by two-thirds of the existing state legislatures calling for a constitutional convention, where three-fourths of the states would have to approve the amendment.

None of the existing 27 amendments have been passed by means of a constitutional convention.

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