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Religious Tolerance logo


"Federal Marriage Amendment" (FMA)
to prohibit same-sex marriage (SSM)

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bullet"Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman." Wording of the Federal Marriage Amendment as of 2004-JUL-12. 1
bullet"Civil unions are a counterfeit version of marriage that will diminish the value of marriage. It is important for people to understand that the argument has shifted from talk about tolerance and a right to homosexual relations based on a right to privacy to explicit public approval. And that's profound in its implications." Mark Regan, of the Family Research Council, referring to Vermont's civil union legislation. 2
bullet"A loving man and woman in a committed relationship can marry. Dogs, no matter what their relationship, are not allowed to marry. How should society treat gays and lesbians in committed relationships? As dogs or as humans?" Posting to an Internet mailing list; used by permission.
bullet"This is a place where we're taking a stand. If this happens, the culture war is over and everything associated with it is lost." James Dobson, founder of the fundamentalist Christian group Focus on the Family, referring to same-sex marriage. He spoke at the "Mayday for Marriage" worship service in Seattle, 2004-MAY-1. 3
bullet"...powerful forces in our society want to change the very definition of marriage itself--in effect, defining marriage out of existence." From "One Flesh": A Sample Sermon Outline for Marriage Protection Week by the Family Research Council. 4
bullet"It seems to me that whenever that kind of legacy of hate rears its head, there is an obligation not to be an innocent bystander," Kansas state Senator Adkins, (R-Leawood) referring to a proposed anti-same-sex marriage amendment to the state constitution. 5
bulletThe Federal Marriage Amendment "...will energize the religious, conservative base like no other issue.© Rick Scarborough, president of Vision America, a conservative group.
bullet"Demonizing our fellow Americans by using constitutions to deny rights rather than protect them is antithetical to our American values....We can ill afford to let far right leaders succeed again in swaying an election by exploiting irrational fears." People for the American Way action alert.
bullet"Marriage is the cornerstone of our society. The institution, really more than any other, determines the well-being of our future, of our children, of our communities." Although this argument could be used to either support or oppose SSM, it was made by Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) the Senate majority leader in 2006 in favor of the FMA.


The "Marriage Amendment" to the U.S. Constitution was first introduced into the House of Representatives on 2002-MAY-15

The amendment, in its initial wording, stated:

"Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.  Neither this Constitution nor 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." 6

A similar amendment was introduced into the Senate on 2003-NOV-25.

Opinions of the nature of the amendment, as originally written, differ sharply:

bulletSupporters of the amendment say that it would simply:

bulletMaintain the status quo: that marriage is is only between one man and one woman.

bullet Restrict courts from interpreting constitutional law in a way that would achieve marital equality. That is, the courts might give special privileges -- those that have traditionally been reserved only for married people -- to couples in common-law relationships: gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and heterosexuals.

bullet Maintain the freedom of individual state legislatures to pass laws, if they wish, which grant create civil unions or give common-law couples these rights and benefits.
bulletThose opposed to the amendment say that the amendment would:

bullet Write discrimination into the U.S. Constitution.

bullet Have major, long-term, negative cultural, moral and social implications.

bulletInvalidate numerous state and local domestic partnership laws.

bullet"Nullify civil rights protections based on marital status," 7

bulletPrevent legislatures from passing laws which grant create civil unions or give common-law couples these rights and benefits.

Obviously, at least one group was either lying or misinformed about the precise nature of the proposed amendment.

The U.S. Constitution was designed to be difficult to change. According to Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD), "In 217 years, the Constitution has only been amended 17 times, although there have been 11,000 separate attempts.8 An amendment must first be passed by 67 Senators, and two thirds of the representatives in the House. It then has to be ratified by at least 38 states. The Washington Post estimated on 2004-JUN-20 that fewer than 52 senators would vote in favor, and that the bill will be defeated. 9 They were correct. The Senate voted on 2004-JUL-14 to kill the FMA. On 2004-AUG-30, the House also failed to pass the FMA; they were 49 votes short.

The FMA was resurrected in early 2006 and again failed.

The amendment appears to be at least temporarily dead for three reasons:

bullet The installation of a Democratic administration and majority Democratic Senate in 2009 makes passage essentially impossible, and

bulletAn increasing number of states are legalizing same-sex marriage

bullet Voter support for SSM has been increasing and opposition has been decreasing. They reached equality circa 2009. Many national polls from 2010 to the present time show that support for SSM outweighed opposition by a growing margin.

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Topics covered in this section:

bulletBackground information
bulletHow the U.S. Constitution is amended.
bulletWould a constitutional amendment be permanent?
bulletWhat special benefits are granted to heterosexual married couples?
bulletWho supports the marriage amendment?
bulletIntroduction of the proposed amendment in 2002
bulletThe initial introduction of the amendment\
bulletComments from its supporters
bulletComments from those opposed
bulletEffects that the amendment would have, as originally worded
bulletAlternative wordings of FMA during 2003-2004
bulletEvents in the news: Initial attempt to pass a FMA:
bulletUp to 2004-MAY
bullet2004-JUN-01 to JUL-10
bullet2004-JUL-11 to JUL-13: The Senate debates
bullet2004-JUL-11 to 2005-JAN: The Senate and House both reject the FMA.
bulletEvents in the news: Second attempt to pass a FMA:
bullet2005: The FMA is reborn: two bills introduced.
bullet2006-APR/MAY; Public opinion polls
bullet2006-MAY: Support and opposition
bullet2006-JUN; Presidential support; defeats in the Senate and House

bulletWhy there is no public consensus on the FMA

bulletHarm caused by same-sex marriage (SSM), according to some social conservatives
bulletA state marriage amendment in Kansas

Related essays in this web site:

bulletSame-sex marriage

Books on same-sex marriage:


  1. "Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage," SJ 30 IS, 2004-MAR-22, at:
  2. Pamela Ferdinand, "With Vermont in the lead, controversy progresses," Washington Post, 2001-SEP-4, at:
  3. "Thousands protest gay marriage in Seattle," Associated Press, 2004-MAY-2, at:
  4. " 'One Flesh': Sample Sermon Outline for Marriage Protection Week 2003," Family Research Council, 2003-OCT, at: 
  5. John Hanna, "Debate over marriage amendment part of larger cultural war," Kansas City Star, 2004-MAY-2, at:
  6. H.J.  Res.  93. To see a copy of the bill, go to Thomas: Legislative Information on the Internet at and enter H.J.  Res.  93 in the Bill Number box and click on Search.
  7. "Religious group, house clique behind new marriage amendment," American Atheists' AAANEWS, 2002-MAY-22.
  8. Pete Winn, "Senate Votes Down FMA," Focus on the Family, 2004-JUL-14, at:
  9. Alan Cooperman, "Outcry from pews less than anticipated," Washington Post, published by the Lexinton (KY) Herald-Leader on 2004-JUN-20 at:

Copyright © 2002 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-MAY-26
Latest update: 2012-AUG-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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