Month Archives: May 2012

Clarifying the Count of Marriage Amendments and Referenda

by Peter Sprigg

May 18, 2012

In the wake of the passage of North Carolinas marriage amendment on May 8, by an overwhelming 61%-39% margin, there have been a number of media reports on the state of marriage law in the fifty states, and how many states have taken action to prevent the issuances of marriage licenses to couples of the same sex. The numbers reported in these stories have sometimes been contradictory, and this may lead to some confusion. With this post, I will try to clarify where the states now stand on this issue.

First, lets look at states that have amended their state constitutions in such a way as to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage in those states. Including North Carolina, there are thirty (30) states in which the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman has been directly enshrined in the states constitution in explicit language. In these thirty states, neither the legislature nor the state courts have the power to legalize same-sex marriage—at least, not unless and until the people of those states vote to amend their constitutions again to repeal the current provisions.

Opponents of the marriage amendment in North Carolina made much of the fact that the amendment on the ballot included not only language defining the word marriage, but also additional language intended to make certain that the state would not create some sort of quasi-marital status under another name (such as civil unions or domestic partnerships) to give some or all of the traditional legal benefits of marriage to same-sex couples.

This provision was described by opponents as though it was a radical and extreme provision unique to the North Carolina amendment. The truth is exactly the opposite—in fact, a clear majority of the states which have adopted amendments to define marriage (twenty of the thirty) have used what is sometimes called a strong or two-sentence amendment to prevent civil unions and domestic partnerships, as well as same-sex marriage. The North Carolina amendment represented the norm, not the exception.

The other ten states have simpler amendments sometimes described as single-sentence, or definition-only amendments, which address only the definition of civil marriage itself. (The pro-homosexual lobby Human Rights Campaign, which usually tracks state laws very closely, has inaccurately omitted Kansas from the list of states with strong marriage amendments.)

Some opponents of the North Carolina amendment argued that it could prevent even private companies from offering domestic partner benefits, or prevent same-sex partners from even entering into private contracts with one another. Similar charges have been made about two of the strong amendments already adopted, those inMichigan and Virginia. These charges are plainly false—the amendments are intended only to bind state and local governments, not private entities (Virginias amendment refers explicitly to this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions). North Carolinas amendment language closely resembles that of Idaho, and added language in the Michigan and Virginia amendments was intended to forestall any effort to evade the amendments intent, which was to ensure that same-sex relationships would not be treated as equivalent or comparable to opposite-sex marriages in any way under the law.

Although thirty states have amended their constitutions to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, there are actually thirty-one states that have amended their constitutions in an effort to prevent same-sex marriage. The thirty-first (in this analysis) was actually one of the first chronologically. The prospect of legalizing same-sex marriage was not taken very seriously until the early 1990s, when a court in Hawaii gave indications that it might be the first to order legalization of same-sex marriage.

The people responded by amending their constitution—but the Hawaii amendment did not actually place a definition of marriage in the text of the constitution. Instead, the Hawaii amendment reserved to the legislature the power to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman (which they did, by statute). So in Hawaii, like the other states with marriage amendments, state courts have no power to change the definition of marriage. However, unlike the other thirty states, Hawaii has left the legislature with the freedom to legalize same-sex marriage, if they should choose to do so. (In my writings, I have usually not counted Hawaiis as a true marriage amendment because it did not fix the definition of marriage in the constitutional text. However, it certainly counted as a victory in the fight to prevent redefinition of marriage.)

That brings us to 31; but you may also have heard pro-family spokesmen declare that after North Carolina, 32 out of 32 states that have voted on the issue have voted to uphold the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Where do they get 32?

In 2009, Maines legislature passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. However, opponents of the bill were able to place it on the ballot, and before it ever took effect, the voters repealed it in a referendum sometimes referred to as a peoples veto. This was another victory for one-man-one-woman marriage, but it did not amend the states constitutionit merely removed the statutory language adopted by the legislature. (Because Maine does not have an actual marriage amendment, advocates of same-sex marriage there—apparently believing that public opinion has shifted in their favor since 2009—have been pushing for another referendum to restore same-sex marriage.)

To further confuse things—while the pro-family claims of a 32-state winning spree at the ballot box are accurate, this does not mean that traditional marriage has won every time marriage has been on the ballot. There is one state, Arizona, which has voted on marriage amendments twice. The first time, in 2006, voters weighed in on a proposed strong or two-sentence amendment which would have prevented the state from establishing civil unions or domestic partnerships as well as same-sex marriage. This amendment was defeated—ironically, because opponents drew attention to its potential impact on opposite-sex couples, not same-sex ones. (Social Security imposes an unfortunate marriage penalty upon widowed recipients of survivor benefits if they choose to marry again. This has provided an incentive for some seniors—a significant population in the popular retirement state of Arizona—to cohabit rather than re-marry, and some states and localities have taken this into account by creating domestic partnerships for same-sex couples and opposite-sex seniors.) In 2008, however, voters adopted a revised, one-sentence, definition-of-marriage-only amendment, thus placingArizona ultimately in the victory column.

There is one additional state-wide referendum that could be counted as a 33rd victory at the polls for the man-woman definition of marriage—even though the word marriage did not appear on the ballot. I refer to the 2010 judicial retention election in Iowa, in which three of the state Supreme Court justices who had voted to impose same-sex marriage on that state in 2009 were removed from office. This was unprecedented in the history of the state, and few observers doubt that the marriage case was the reason for it.

The 30or 31states with some form of marriage amendment should not be considered the only ones that have acted to protect the definition of marriage, however. Only six states (plus the District of Columbia) currently grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, so the number of states which define marriage as the union of a man and a woman is currently 44, not just 30.

In two of those states (Washington and Maryland), the legislatures this year voted to legalize same-sex marriage, but those laws have not taken effect, and pro-family forces in both states are attempting to place the issue on this Novembers ballot in hope of achieving a peoples veto like the one that occurred in Maine. Even with Washington and Maryland excluded based on a pending change in their laws, the number of states that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman is 42, not just 30.

We in the pro-family movement do not consider the social institution of marriage to be inherently stronger in states which have defined it as the union of a man and a woman in the constitution than in states which have such a definition by statutory or common law. Marriage is not stronger there—merely safer, in that an amendment has the political and legal effect of making a redefinition of marriage more difficult and thus less likely in that state in the future. Researchers wanting to compare states on the issue of same-sex marriage should compare the 42 (or, for the time being, 44) states without it to the six states which have it—rather than comparing the thirty (or 31) states with amendments to the 19 or 20 without them.

So in conclusion, lets walk through the numbers again:

Number of states in which the state constitution prevents legal recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships: 20

They are:

Alabama 2006

Arkansas 2004

Florida 2008

Georgia 2004

Idaho 2006

Kansas 2005

Kentucky 2004

Louisiana 2004

Michigan 2004

Nebraska 2000

North Carolina 2012

North Dakota 2004

Ohio 2004

Oklahoma 2004

South Carolina 2006

South Dakota 2006

Texas 2005

Utah 2004

Virginia 2006

Wisconsin 2006

Number of states in which the state constitution defines civil marriage as the union of one man and one woman: 30

To those above, add:

Alaska 1998

Arizona 2008

California 2008

Colorado 2006

Mississippi 2004

Missouri 2004

Montana 2004

Nevada 2002

Oregon 2004

Tennessee 2006

Number of states which have amended their state constitutions to prevent legalization of same-sex marriage: 31

To the states above, add Hawaii amendment (1998) reserving the definition of marriage to the legislature

Number of states in which voters have upheld the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman in a statewide referendum: 32

To the states above, add Maines peoples veto (2009) of same-sex marriage legislation

Number of states where voters have, either explicitly or implicitly, rejected the legalization of same-sex marriage: 33

To the states above, add Iowas judicial retention election (2010), removing state Supreme Court judges who voted to impose same-sex marriage

Number of states where marriage remains the union of a man and a woman under state law: 42

Number of states which currently (May 2012) grant marriage licenses only for unions of one man and one woman: 44

Includes Washington and Maryland, where same-sex marriage legislation has been enacted but not yet taken effect.

A Response to Peter Wehners Column on Franklin Graham

by Rob Schwarzwalder

May 15, 2012

Recently Franklin Graham took a bold and prophetic stance against President Obamas affirmation of same-sex marriage. His full statement can be read here.

Franklin Graham is the founder of Samaritans Purse, a ministry that provides life-saving food and medical care to the poorest of the poor, even in such generally closed countries as North Korea. And Samaritans Purse does their good unabashedly as a witness to the love of Christ and the power of His Gospel.

Rev. Graham is also unashamed to stand for biblical principles in the public square. In his statement on marriage, he noted that The institution of marriage should not be defined by presidents or polls, governors or the media. The definition was set long ago and changing legislation or policy will never change Gods definition. This is a sad day forAmerica. May God help us.

For this, Peter Wehner of the Ethics and Public Policy Center has taken him to task for selective outrage. He also attacks Rev. Graham for being censorious and lack(ing) a spirit of grace and reconciliation, and for not with equal vigor attacking such vices as self-righteousness and woes as poverty.

Were one to comb through Rev. Grahams many messages, spoken and written, Im sure there could be found myriad condemnations of such things. In this instance, he spoke out about a matter of enormous consequence to our society and did so immediately after his own home state voted to affirm traditional marriage and the President of theUnited Statesdenigrated it.

Let me see: Relevance, importance, timeliness, biblical instruction, patriotism, a burden for his country what was Rev. Graham missing?

Mr. Wehner a faithful man and generally a perceptive commentator - also argues that the definition of marriage has changed even within the Bible. Nonsense: To suggest, as he does, that Old Testament examples of polygamy, concubinage, etc. mean that the Scriptural definition of marriage itself has changed is neither logical nor consistent with the Bible itself.

From Genesis 2 on, the Bible makes clear that God ordained marriage to exist between one man and one woman, for life. Jesus affirmed this overtly in such passages as Matthew 19:1-10; one might tend to think of Him as a rather good expositor of the Torah.

In this same passage, Jesus told His Pharisaic interlocutors that Moses granted certificates of divorce because of your hardness of heart …but from the beginning it has not been this way. In other words, God makes allowances for human fallenness (e.g., polygamy in the era of the Hebrew prophets), but this does not mean He approves of such or has not made His moral will sufficiently known that it can be followed without ambiguity.

Additionally, it was President Obama, not Rev. Graham, who politicized the Bible by using the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do to you) as a pretext for his endorsement of homosexual marriage.

The implications of such an application are mind-boggling. Do we let our children indulge in diets of Coke and ice cream because they enjoy it and it makes them, and not us, obese? If the standard for moral judgment in public policy is self-satisfied permission of all that does not cause me direct and serious physical harm, our society is not crumbling it is in free-fall.

Homosexual marriage is destructive of a social institution grounded in biblical revelation and validated by natural law. It places the entire social fabric at risk: Children can only naturally be pro-created by a male and a female, and the marriage of those partners provides the healthiest environment in which a child can be raised. These premises compose the indisputable foundation of civilization.

Franklin Graham is to be applauded for his declaration that when homosexuality is sanctioned by a nations leaders and enshrined in a nations laws, the heart of our Creator is grieved. With him, I pray that God may indeed help us.

Facebook Inc. valued above McDonalds Corp.: What does that mean for your kid?

by Family Research Council

May 15, 2012

Whether we like it or not, kids are now spending far more time with media and technology than they are with their families or in school — as much as eight hours a day on average in the United States alone. So wrote Jim Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, a San Francisco think-tank focusing on media and families.

Facebook Inc is now worth more than Citigroup Inc. and McDonald’s Corp. But even when parents keep their kids off of the social networking site, numerous other apps and social media start-ups are vying for their use. The Wall Street Journal reported that 20 companies pitched online and mobile products for kids in Pasadena, Calif., at the 6th annual Digital Kids Conference, just last month.

The technological landscape is ever-changing and one mother-daughter team has an eye on the challenges of parenting in this brave, new world.

Concerned by the brevity of contemporary childhood and the crisis of premature sexualization brought on through “sexting” and related activities, Dr. Brenda Hunter and her daughter Kristen Blair have tackled these themes in a new book titled, From Santa to Sexting: Helping your Child Safely Navigate Middle School and Shape the Choices that Last a Lifetime.

Join us at noon on Friday, May 18th as Dr. Brenda Hunter and her daughter Kristen offer research, stories, and resources to help keep kids safe and strong in middle school.

RSVP today!

The New York Times Makes a Splash on College Loan Debt

by Chris Gacek

May 15, 2012

Andrew Martin and Andrew Lehren have written a major story on college loan debt for the New York Times (5/12/2012). As the authors note: …. growing student hangs over the economy like a dark cloud for a generation of college graduates and indebted dropouts. One interesting aspect of the article is its discussion of the less than honest campaigns that non-profit colleges use to entice students to attend them. Another devastating insight: Many students and parents dont have a firm understanding of the cost of attending college, or the amount of debt they will incur. And most colleges arent much help. Oh, and one mother who co-signed loans for her daughter is taking out life insurance on her child. Thats when you know its getting serious.

Martin has a follow-up article that is first-rate. In it he speaks with E. Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State, who says that public colleges and universities need to devise a new business model to pay for the costs of education, beyond sticking students with higher tuition and greater debt” (in quotes - NYT summary of Gee’s thinking).


More from Glenn Reynolds on the Higher Education Bubble

by Chris Gacek

May 11, 2012

This past weekend Professor Glenn Reynolds, University of Tennessee Law School, published another newspaper article on the college debt bubble. Reynolds is one of the best writers on the college debt bubble as he calls it. He believes that the market for exorbitantly priced higher education is getting soft as market forces and public awareness take hold.

He also takes note of 21st Century alternatives to the old brick and mortar education model. He mentions a number of high-tech ventures that are taking off: Harvard/MIT edX, Minerva University, Stanford professor/Google bigwig Sebastian Thruns Udacity.

New thinking abounds: Glenn references Andrew Coulson (Cato Institute) who proposes that it is becoming more practical for students to educate themselves via online methods. See George Leefs brief discussion of Coulsons idea here.


They make Mothers Day real…

by FRC Media Office

May 11, 2012


This Mothers Day week, FRC hosted a special news program to celebrate the work that over two thousands of Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs) do every day around the country. Both those who serve and those served join us to highlight this positive, life-affirming work that benefit mothers, fathers, and children in need.

Now you can watch on-demand this special Mother’s Day webcast highlighting the recently published “A Passion to Serve: How Pregnancy Resource Centers Empower Women, Help Families and Strengthen Communities” and the good work of PRCs around the country.

You will also learn what you can do to help PRCs fend off a wave of legislation that is only designed to hinder their mission.

Program guests include:

  • Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council
  • Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio)
  • Peggy Hartshorn, President, Heartbeat International
  • Garrett & Ahna Roney, Former PRC Clients
  • Tom Glessner, President, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA)
  • Karen Snuffer, Executive Director,CareNet PregnancyResource Centers
  • Bishop Harry Jackson, President, High Impact Leadership Coalition
  • Matt Bowman, Legal Counsel, AllianceDefense Fund
  • Jeanne Monahan, Director, Center for Human Dignity, Family Research Council

A Passion To Serve: How Pregnancy Resource Centers Empower Women, Help Families and Strengthen Communities

Please watch and share today!

The Problem with Same-Sex Marriage

by Krystle Gabele

May 10, 2012

There has been a lot of media coverage focusing on same-sex marriage recently. With voters in North Carolina turning out overwhelmingly for traditional marriage and President Barack Obama declaring his support for same-sex marriage, there is no doubt that this issue will be at the forefront for the near future. It is crucial to inform your friends and family about same-sex marriage and its dangers to the family by watching this documentary.

The Problem with Same-sex Marriage: How It Will Affect You and Your Children brings in marriage, family and homosexual experts to talk about what happens when marriage is redefined. You can also order the documentary online.

Additionally, FRC has a variety of resources on the dangers of same-sex marriage.

Hunger Games Are Real: Children Sacrificed to Porn Now a Legal Spectator Sport

by Cathy Ruse

May 10, 2012

The purposeful viewing of child pornography on the internet is now legal in New York, wrote Judge Victoria A. Graffeo from the highest state court in New York.

The ruling came down to a splitting of hairs over whether viewing is possessing. Read more here.

But no hair-splitting legal gymnastics will make something so fantastically wrong, right. This ruling cannot stand.

Child pornography is the visual record of an innocent child being abused. There are very sick people in this world who find viewing it sexually stimulating. They provide a demand for it, and the greedy brutes who make up the pornography industry are happy to sacrifice childrens lives to provide the supply.

Every time technology evolves, the porn industry argues that the laws which constrain its excesses surely dont apply here. Possessing hardcore pornographic videos cant be illegal, they argued why, video cassettes are nothing more than magnetic tape in black squares of plastic.

They lost that round, and they will lose here too.

Make no mistake: Viewing child pornography is no private or passive act. It is an integral part of the child-porn chain, every link of which must be made illegal.

There is no room for compromise. The law must reach the evil producers, the soulless distributors, and the heartless, perverted consumers —- whether they buy it and save it, or simply watch it or view it.

The Social Conservative Review: May 10, 2012

by Krystle Gabele

May 10, 2012

Click here to subscribe to The Social Conservative Review.

Dear Friends,

A few days before she died of adenocarcinoma (glandular cancer), my mother had me sit down and help her make phone calls. She could not see well enough to find the numbers, so she asked me to do it.

The calls were to a list of people in her church who were ill or in some kind of need.

This was characteristic of my Mom, whose selflessness was as profound as it was quiet. She would never think to boast to others about her commitment to sharing the good news about her Savior, her works of compassion, or her burden for the poor at home and abroad. She simply lived these things, behind the scenes.

To say that motherhood is a noble calling understates its importance. FRC celebrated mothers this year with a wonderful Webcast on the Pregnancy Resource Center movement. FRC President Tony Perkins’ moving interviews with policy leaders and with young women who have benefitted from their local PRC’s can be viewed at Pregnancy Resource Centers: Celebrating Mother’s Day Every Day.

Walking into a quiet room and finding my mother on her knees was not uncommon for me. But she would have been embarrassed if anyone else had seen her - letting anyone but the closest of friends know about her private devotion would, in her mind, have been unseemly self-display.

I remember my mother’s prayers,” wrote Abraham Lincoln. “They have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.”

This is a legacy I share with Mr. Lincoln. It is one my children will receive from my wife. Can a mother give any more valuable gift to her children?

Happy Mother’s Day,

Rob Schwarzwalder
Senior Vice-President
Family Research Council

P.S. President Obama has announced what has been anticipated for some time: His support for counterfeit, same-sex “marriage.” Read FRC’s take on the President’s comments here.

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May 10, 1940: Churchill becomes Warlord

by Robert Morrison

May 10, 2012

No American had a voice in the decisions made in London this day in 1940. It was an entirely British matter. But President Roosevelt had said this generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny. For millions of us, our destiny would be entwined with the decisions made across an ocean on May 10, 1940.

My own parents would likely never have met had the U.S. not been drawn into World War II. Thats true for tens of millions of us. And drawing America into that war was the Number One objective of the man who became Prime Minister this day in 1940. No one ever studied the whims of his mistress more carefully than I studied Franklin Roosevelt, Churchill would say. Thats an odd way of putting it for this man who was famously faithful to his beloved and brilliant wife, Clementine. She was taller than he was, too. Thats usually a sign of a secure ego.

Carlo DEstes book, Warlord, is a biography of Winston Churchill at war. He was at war, too, it seems from the day he graduated from Sandhurst, Englands military academy. He saw action on the Afghan frontier with the British army in India. He fought in the last great cavalry charge at Omdurman in the Sudan. Then, he was fighting against militant Muslims. He killed many of them. And some of them tried to kill him. Nothing is as exhilarating as to be shot at without result, he said of his experience there. Young Winston was just a lowly lieutenant in Lord Kitcheners army fighting the Dervishes. Those fanatical warriors followed a Muslim holy man they called the Mahdithe Expected One. When the Mahdi died and Lord Kitchener allowed his grave to be desecrated, young Winston protested loudly. He was courageous, not only against Britains enemies, but courageous on the home front, as well. When he was captured during the Boer War in South Africa in 1899, everyone on both sides testified to his fearlessness. Churchill as POW could not be restrained, however. He hated being confined in any way. DEste relates the controversy over Churchills escape from the Boers. Did he abandon his fellow POWs? Or did he jump at the chance to escape while they held back? Its not entirely clear.

What is clear is that he took advantage of a trip to the latrine to squeeze his then-slender frame through a hole in the wall. As they would say of him, Winston stepped out of the loo and into history.

And what a step! Once, at a large London dinner party, he annoyed his bosss daughter by dominating table conversation. Violet Bonham Carters father was Prime Minister H.H. Asquith at the time. Mr. Churchill, dont you know we are supposed to be humble? Winston wasnt having any of that. I know we are all worms, he said (he knew his Psalms), but I do believe I am a glowworm.

Glow he did. Several years ago, I told the interns at Family Research Council that Winston Churchills life may have been the best documented human life ever lived. Trip Dyer, one of the brightest our Witherspoon Fellows, challenged me.

Trip said he thought the current Prince Williams life may be more documented. I took his point. We do live in a Twitter Age.

And one thing you learn from DEstes Warlord book is that Churchill did not mind being contradicted. But youd better be able to maintain your point with facts and arguments. I still maintain that Churchills life is the best documented human life ever lived because we know so much of what Churchill thought about everything because he wrote everything down. Its hard to imagine that he had any thought that he did not write. And thats not the case with Prince William.

My own wife is taller than I am. (That, I promise, is the end of Churchill comparisons.) She could not believe I needed yet another Churchill book. After dropping me off at the Naval Academy recently, she called me on her cell phone. A police officer at Annapolis City Dock had stopped her. You know that thumping sound I told you about, she said. The policeman showed me that your Warlord book was rattling around on the roof of our SUV. Everything youve ever heard about the absent-minded history prof is true, Im sorry to say.

But I have not forgotten this: President Obama tossed the bust of Winston Churchill out of the White House into the snow. He spurns the advice and counsel of the great British war leader. Too bad.

Theres a lot to learn from Churchill. A key lesson has to do with Jerusalem. Mr. Obamas cringing spokespeople cannot decide whether Jerusalem is the capital of Israel or not. They have no trouble telling you that Berlin is the capital of Germany. But somehow, the Obama administration is confused about Israels capital city. Churchill had the answer to that one, too: Let the Jews have Jerusalem. It is they who made it famous.

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