Contents of Coalition Press Statement:
SPEAKER 1: LAKITA GARTH
On behalf of the Alliance for Marriage, I would like to welcome you to today's press conference.
My name is Lakita Garth. I am a recording artist and a member of the Alliance for Marriage.
After I introduce the Alliance for Marriage to you, you will hear from members of the Board of Advisors for the Alliance for Marriage. You will hear from representatives of the Asian, Hispanic, Anglo and African-American communities. You will also hear from Dr. Walter Fauntroy, who organized the March on Washington for Martin Luther King, as well as representatives of two of the largest African-American denominations in the United States: the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Church of God in Christ.
AFTER our speakers have finished their remarks, you will have an opportunity to ask questions. In addition, at the conclusion of today's press conference, copies of the speakers' statements will be available at the rear of the room.
The Alliance for Marriage is a non-partisan research and education organization dedicated to promoting marriage and addressing the crisis of fatherless families in the United States.
The Alliance for Marriage exists to educate the public on the benefits of marriage for children, adults and society. We also exist to promote reforms designed to strengthen marriage and restore a culture of married fatherhood in American society.
We are a racially, culturally and religiously diverse coalition, whose membership reflects the fact that marriage is the most multi-cultural social institution in the world.
We represent several of the largest African-American denominations in the United States. We represent millions of Jews as well as Christians from the Hispanic, Asian and Anglo-American communities. We also represent the largest Muslim organizations in North America, including the African-American Muslim community. And finally, we represent American citizens of every religious and political persuasion who understand the nature and social importance of marriage.
We are Americans of every color and every creed who share a commitment to reducing the epidemic of fatherless families in the United States. Some of us are Democrats. Some of us are Republicans. And many of us do not belong to any political party. But we all share the fundamental conviction that the tragedy of family disintegration in America is a greater national priority than any matter of partisan politics.
SPEAKER 2: BOB LAIRD
Good morning! My name is Bob Laird. I am the Director of the Office for
Family Life for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. I am also a
member of the Board of Advisors for the Alliance for Marriage.
The Alliance for Marriage supports a broad pro-marriage reform agenda,
encompassing both civil society and public policy reforms. These reforms are
designed to help restore a culture of intact families in the United States.
Most of these reforms are a matter of common sense. For example, in the
public policy arena, we follow the simple admonition of Senator Daniel
Patrick Moynihan who said that "the principal objective of American
government at every level should be to see that children are born into intact
families, and that they remain so."
For several decades, America has been wandering in a wilderness of social
problems caused by family disintegration. Record rates of divorce and
out-of-wedlock births have created an epidemic of fatherless families in
America. An overwhelming body of social science data has established that
America's greatest social problems - violent crime, welfare dependency, and
child poverty - track more closely with family disintegration than they do
with any other social variable, including race and income level. The
Alliance for Marriage's reform agenda has been created to address this
Tragically, as bad as our current situation may be, it could soon become
dramatically worse. This is because the courts in America are poised to
erase the legal road map to marriage and the family from American law within
this decade. The basic definition of marriage as an exclusive relationship
between one man and one woman is, as the Cardinal Archbishop of Philadelphia,
Anthony Bevilacqua states, "non-negotiable and irrevocable."
The weakening of the legal status of marriage in America at the hand of the
courts has already begun. This process represents nothing less than a
profound social revolution - advancing apart from the democratic process and
against the will of the American people. If allowed to continue, this
revolution will deprive future generations of Americans of the legal road map
necessary to protect them from the social wilderness of family disintegration.
SPEAKER 3: VICTOR MENDEZ
My name is Victor Mendez. I am a representative of the Alianza Ministerial Evangelica Nacional, the largest network of Hispanic churches in America. We represent over 5,000 Hispanic churches in the United States and Puerto Rico.
We have gathered here in Washington today because we believe that the American people will need to take the extraordinary step of amending the Constitution of the United States in order to preserve the institution of marriage for future generations. For this reason, our movement has been working with political leaders from both parties to prepare for the introduction in Congress of a Federal Marriage Amendment that has been carefully reviewed by a national committee of scholars and attorneys for almost two years.
Marriage as the union of male and female has been part of the common currency of humanity for millennia. In fact, marriage as the union of the two genders is literally the most multicultural social institution in the world -- cutting across all racial, religious, and cultural lines.
The institution of marriage is so central to the well-being of both children and our society that it was, until recently, difficult to imagine that marriage itself would need explicit constitutional protection. However, our country's time-honored understanding that marriage is -- in its very essence -- the union of male and female has come under fire in the courts. And the time has come for America to put this issue back where it belongs -- in the hands of the American people.
SPEAKER 4: BILL TENG
My name is Bill Teng, and I am the Senior Pastor of the Chinese Community Church of Washington. I am also a member of the Board of Advisors for the Alliance for Marriage.
We believe that developments in the US courts have brought our nation to a historic crossroads. We won't review here the long history of successful court challenges to the legal status of marriage in Alaska and Hawaii, that were eventually rebuffed -- through the operation of democracy at the state level. Suffice it to say that the courts finally overcame the will of the people in this national debate when the Vermont Supreme Court required the State of Vermont to grant all of the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. As a result of this judicial dictate, the Vermont legislature passed a "civil unions" law that creates de facto homosexual "marriage" in all but name. And this is nothing less than a legal Trojan Horse for allowing the courts to redefine marriage across America.
Significantly, the Vermont law contains no residency requirement at all. Less than a year after the law took effect, over 2,000 couples had entered into "civil unions" in Vermont. But less than one quarter of these cases involved someone from Vermont. This means that the vast majority of Vermont "civil unions" are held by non-Vermont residents -- from every state in the nation -- who will eventually sue in their home states for that quasi marital status, and all of its legal consequences, to carry over. And already, the first of these civil union recognition lawsuits is in the early phases of litigation in Georgia.
In addition, in the most recent effort to use the courts to defeat the democratic process at the state level, a major new lawsuit was recently filed in Massachusetts. As in the case of Vermont, this lawsuit asks the state courts of Massachusetts to abolish hundreds of years of social and legal precedent regarding the definition of marriage. Unfortunately, legal experts are convinced that marriage as a legal institution in Massachusetts will be undermined by the courts as easily as it was in Vermont.
Because of these -- and other -- developments, a consensus has emerged among scholars and political leaders concerned with this issue. A critical juncture has been reached: the progressive weakening of marriage is now so far advanced that we can no longer hope to preserve the understanding of marriage for future generations short of using the ultimate democratic tool available to the American people -- a federal constitutional amendment.
SPEAKER 5: THANN YOUNG
My name is Thann Young. I am the senior pastor of Agape AME Church in Maryland and a member of the board of the Alliance for Marriage.
As mentioned previously, AFM has been working quietly for more than a year with political leaders of both parties to launch the national debate over the Federal Marriage Amendment. As a result, in the next few weeks, the Federal Marriage Amendment will be introduced in Congress at the request of the Alliance For Marriage.
It would be customary to hold a press conference such as this one on the actual date of the introduction of an amendment text in Congress. But we have deliberately chosen to use this press conference to lay the groundwork for what will happen in Congress in the coming weeks and months. As a coalition representing a cross-section of the citizens of this nation who believe in marriage, we wanted to have an opportunity -- prior to the introduction of our amendment text -- to declare that the future of marriage and the family in America is not a partisan political issue. In fact, the emerging debate over the future of marriage and the family in the United States as far greater than politics itself.
For this same reason, although we have been careful to prepare the ground in Congress for the introduction of the Federal Marriage Amendment, those in Congress who have agreed to sponsor the amendment are not with us here today. This is because neither they, nor our coalition, wants this effort to protect the legal status of marriage in America to be cast in narrowly political terms. This would not do justice to the over-riding importance of an issue that will have profound consequences for children and for future generations.
Matt Daniels, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Marriage, will now present to you the text of the Federal Marriage Amendment.
SPEAKER 6: MATT DANIELS
My name is Matt Daniels, and I am the Executive Director of the Alliance For Marriage.
[Visual aid containing amendment text displayed.]
As you can see, the text of the Federal Marriage Amendment reads:
"Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.
Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."
The first sentence simply states that marriage in the United States consists of the union of male and female. The second sentence ensures that the democratic process at the state level will decide the allocation of the benefits and privileges traditionally associated with marriage. It precludes the courts from distorting existing constitutional or statutory law by requiring that "marital status or the legal incidents thereof" to be conferred upon other pairings or groupings.
The Federal Marriage Amendment is thus narrowly tailored to address negative developments in the courts. At the same time, the amendment does not depart from principles of federalism under which family law is, for the most part, a state matter. The traditional autonomy of state legislatures on family law matters is preserved by the text of the amendment.
No one involved in the Alliance For Marriage believes that saving the legal status of marriage in America will alone be sufficient to stem the tide of family disintegration that has resulted from the decline of marriage as a social institution. This is why AFM is organized as a broadly pro-marriage movement. But we are convinced that protecting the legal status of marriage -- and in the process protecting the right of the American people to decide critical issues of social policy for themselves -- is a necessary condition for the renewal of a marriage-based culture in the United States.
This is a great and prosperous nation. We can do better than accept astronomical rates of youth crime and child poverty because of an epidemic of fatherlessness and family disintegration. But our nation cannot go forward unless our laws send a positive message to children about marriage, family and their future. This is why AFM has created the Federal Marriage Amendment -- to allow Americans to pass the legal roadmap for marriage and the family on to future generations.
SPEAKER 7: NATHAN DIAMENT
My name is Nathan Diament, I am the director of public policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America -- the nation's largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization representing nearly 1,000 congregations.
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America joins with the Alliance for Marriage in endorsing the Federal Marriage Amendment because we believe that this text is a reasonable and appropriate response to recent decisions by America's courts in an important arena of social policy.
The Jewish tradition has long recognized the centrality of the institution of marriage, so much so that the term in Judaism for marriage is kiddushin -- or, 'holiness' -- our most central aspiration. Moreover, traditional Judaism recognizes that the institution of marriage is central to the formation of a healthy society and the raising of children.
The Federal Marriage Amendment will enshrine this critical institution in our nation's foundational law. Recent decisions by the supreme courts of some states -- such as Hawaii, Vermont and New York -- clearly indicate that the nature of marriage will be increasingly subjected to challenge in the coming years. The Federal Marriage Amendment is a reasonable response to this trend. The proposed amendment will primarily prevent unelected judges from changing the institution of marriage. It will not sanction discrimination against homosexuals, it will not deprive them of certain civil benefits that state or local legislatures might afford to homosexuals, it won't even prevent the legislative of civil unions. It will, however, enshrine the traditional and historical institution of marriage. This is probably too little for some, and too much for others, but it is the right thing to do.
SPEAKER 8: VERNON SHANNON
My name is Vernon Shannon, and I am the Senior Pastor of the National Church
of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion denomination -- John Wesley AME Zion
Church in Washington, DC.
I am here today on behalf of Bishop Cecil Bishop, the Senior Bishop of the
African Methodist Episcopal Zion denomination, in order to express our
denomination's support for the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Founded in 1796, the AME Zion denomination is one of the eight historic
African-American denominations in the United States. Our denomination has a
long history of being at the forefront of promoting strong marriages as the
foundation of a healthy church community, and a healthy society. In keeping
with this history, we want to express our support for this effort to
preserve the legal status of marriage in the United States.
Along with the other members of the Alliance for Marriage, as well as the
bishops of the AME church and the Church of God In Christ, we join today in
affirming the need for the people of the United States to pass the legal
roadmap to marriage and the family on to future generations.
SPEAKER 9: BISHOP GEORGE MCKINNEY
My name is Bishop George McKinney. I am a Presiding Bishop of the Church of God In Christ and a member of the Board of Advisors for the Alliance for Marriage.
I am here today on behalf of the Bishops Council of the Church of God In Christ, who have joined with the Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in endorsing the Federal Marriage Amendment. The Church of God In Christ is one of the largest African-American denominations in the United States, with more than eight million members worldwide.
The legal road map to marriage and the family -- enshrined in our nation's marriage laws -- has provided social, cultural and moral guidance to human society for millennia. I believe that today's press conference marks a turning point in the historic national debate over the nature and definition of marriage in America. So far, this debate has been disguised in legal arguments designed to make it only a matter for activist lawyers. But this does not do justice to an issue that will have a profound impact on our nation.
What is being challenged in our nation's courts is an institution that is the very root and foundation of human society. With the advent of the Federal Marriage Amendment, we will finally begin the process of taking one of the greatest social debates in the history of our nation directly to the American people. And we are confident that some time over the next decade, the American people -- speaking through their elected representatives -- will make the common sense choice of affirming marriage as the union of male and female.
There is no question that our nation has a long way to travel in order to get back on the path of family stability. But we have a moral obligation to strive together to make a better future for our children. This is why I am proud to stand with the other members of the Alliance For Marriage who have committed themselves to a broadly pro-marriage agenda designed to help rebuild a culture of intact families in the United States.
But if future generations are to find their way out of the wilderness of family disintegration, they are going to need a clear road map. And in an era when the very nature of marriage is being radically challenged in the courts, it is not enough for people of good will in the United States to remain passive. Our laws must send a positive message to our children and to future generations about marriage. This is why the Church of God In Christ joins with the African Methodist Episcopal Church -- and all of the communities that are a part of the Alliance for Marriage -- in supporting the Federal Marriage Amendment.
CLOSING STATEMENT: REV. WALTER FAUNTROY
Remarks of the Honorable Reverend Walter E. Fauntroy, President of the National Black Leadership Roundtable.
The basic social, economic and political problems in our world today tend to reflect themselves most acutely in the experience of people of African descent on the continent of Africa and throughout the African Diaspora. Nowhere is this fact more clear and more devastating than in the "pandemic" of fatherless families that is sweeping our nation today.
I speak with the authority of one who has for forty uninterrupted years been the pastor if an inner city church in our nation's capital. The first ten of those years were spent working at the core of the civil rights movement of the decade of the 1960s aimed at ending racial segregation and discrimination against people of African descent in this nation. I spent the decades of the 1970s and 1980s as a member of Congress whose focus was primarily upon the social, political and economical problems of "the unmonied many." The last ten years have been spent wrestling with the debilitating effects of the disintegration of family life, here and around the world.
Since I left the White House with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on July 2, 1964 upon the signing by President Lyndon Baines Johnson of the civil Rights Act of 1964, we in the African American community have experienced a 400% increase in children being reared in fatherless families. In 1964, 25% of African American children were born out of wedlock. Today it is up to 80% of our children being born out of wedlock and reared in households without the presence of both of their parents.
If we don't do something about this pandemic, we will soon be back to the slavery era when 100% of our children were born into a system that was based upon the destruction of the nuclear family and where children were brutally denied the socially integrating experience of being reared by their mothers and fathers who were united in holy wedlock. We have not yet recovered from the debilitating effects of that socially engineered distortion of the most multicultural social institution in the world: the virtually universal practice among human beings of defining marriage as the union of male and female. It is an institution in which sexual activity is for the dual purposes of procreation AND recreation, and not recreation alone.
It is no accident that life in the African American community is plagued with the highest indices of social disorganization in this nation today. It is not an accident that we experience in our communities the highest incidents of violent crime, welfare dependency, infant mortality, sexually transmitted diseases and health maladies generally. It is in large part due to the destruction of the family and marriage as an institution in our lives.
And in large measure this state of affairs has been socially engineered by the body politic of this nation. As much as it discomforted me, I had to ruefully admit in the decade of the 1960s that Daniel Patrick Moynihan was right, the welfare system "incentivized" marital irresponsibility on the part of fathers in our society.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that I as the pastor of a church whose primary responsibility, among other things, is to "visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction," would enthusiastically join a non-partisan research and education organization like the Alliance for Marriage. For it is dedicated to promoting marriage and addressing the crisis of fatherless families in the Untied States. I support its advocacy of the Federal Marriage Amendment that would redefine marriage as an institution as "the union of a male and female."
In doing so, I am by no means abandoning my life-long commitment to protecting the civil rights of all our citizens, gay or straight, and of every race, creed and color on this planet. I respect the right of any and every citizen to enter binding contracts with one another that are upheld by the courts of law in this country. Every gay or lesbian citizen has that right now but that right, in my view, does not extend to redefining the institution of marriage for the purpose of legalizing a lifestyle that one has chosen. Gay and lesbian couples have the right to enter contractual arrangements now and that right should be exercised without tampering with an institution, the breakdown of which is producing a myriad of serious problems in our nation: marriage as the union of male and female.
PRESS STATEMENT: ANTHONY CARDINAL BEVILACQUA, ARCHBISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA
The Catholic Church believes and teaches that marriage is a holy union of one man and one woman established by God. However, marriage is not an exclusively religious institution. Society, through our laws and customs, rightfully supports marriage as the commonly accepted natural state of a man and woman who want to commit themselves to each other in a communion of love and fidelity. Love and fidelity are indispenable virtues in any human relationship. Marriage, however, is defined as the exclusive relationship of one man and one woman. This definition is non-negotiable and irrevocable.
This proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States, stating that "marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman," will give strong legal support to the institutions of marriage and the family, both of which are the foundations of our society and our culture.
Today, the institution of marriage is being questioned and even threatened by those who want to redefine it. It is unfortunate that even legislative bodies in some countries, including our own, are attempting to equate other styles of unions of persons with the traditional definition of marriage and the family. The Pontifical Council for the Family, in fact, has reminded legislators, especially those who are Catholic, that they "should not favor this type of legislation . . . because it is contrary to the common good and the truth about man and thus truly unjust." It is true that this proposed amendment by itself would not directly affect these types of de facto unions. Yet, it deserves our support since it would achieve the essential objective of protecting through the law of our land the true definition of marriage.
I commend all the men and women of various races, faiths and political parties who have committed themselves to the task of promoting the sacred dignity and value of marriage through this amendment. It is primarily their leadership that must provide the wisdom and energy to establish marriage as a constitutionally protected institution of our society and nation.
Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua is the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia. The Cardinal holds degrees in both civil and canon law and is a member of the bar of the United States Supreme Court.