A prominent national organization of gay Democrats has joined the growing list of groups putting pressure on potential presidential candidates regarding their support for a highly controversial constitutional amendment to deny marriage rights to lesbians and gay men. "While more Republicans are rapidly embracing this resolution, any Democrat who supports this amendment removes themselves from the mainstream of the Democratic Party and contradicts our party's platform," said Dave Noble, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats. "The Federal Marriage Amendment does not enjoy the support of the Democratic leadership, since it would deny hospital visitation rights to family members, threaten parental rights, increase the tax burden for millions of Americans, and canonize--for the first time--explicit discrimination in the U.S. Constitution." The organization is withholding electoral endorsements and financial support from any congressional Democrat who offers cosponsorship to the Federal Marriage Amendment, Noble said.
House Joint Resolution 56, commonly referred to as the Federal Marriage Amendment, would force states to deny recognition of same-sex marital relationships and would require any state that recognizes such relationships to amend its own constitution. In order to be added to the U.S. Constitution the resolution must first be passed by two thirds of each chamber of Congress. It must then be ratified by three fourths of state legislatures, which have up to seven years to approve any such amendment. The resolution currently has 29 Republican sponsors and four Democratic sponsors. A similar resolution has not yet been introduced in the U.S. Senate but has already been endorsed by Republican leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). In 2002, National Stonewall Democrats withheld financial and electoral support from the reelection campaigns of three congressional Democrats who sponsored a similar resolution in the 107th Congress. Two of those Democrats, Rep. David Phelps of Illinois and Rep. Ronnie Shows of Mississippi, were soundly defeated in their reelection bids despite having used their support for the amendment in an attempt to attract voters, the organization said.
The marriage amendment has received much attention in light of the increasing debate about gay marriage that has followed a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision invalidating antisodomy laws. Many have since argued that the ruling's broad language about equality for gays and lesbians will engender legal battles for gay marriage rights, and a number of gay rights organizations are putting pressure on presidential candidates to take a clear stand on the issue.