House Votes on Federal Gay Marriage Bill
By MARK SHERMAN
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Republican-led House voted Thursday to prevent federal courts from ordering states to recognize gay marriages sanctioned by other states.
The Marriage Protection Act was adopted by a 233-194 vote, buoyed by backing from the Bush administration. Last week, the Senate dealt gay marriage opponents a setback by failing to advance a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex unions.
Federal judges, unelected and given lifetime appointments, ``must not be allowed to rewrite marriage policy for the states,'' Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., said.
Democrats said the bill was an election-year distraction, calling it an unconstitutional attack on gays in America and the federal judiciary. They said it would set a precedent that Congress could use to shield any future legislation from federal judicial review.
``They couldn't amend the Constitution last week so they're trying to desecrate and circumvent the Constitution this week,'' Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said.
GOP leader urges pastors to use same-sex marriage as election issue
Pastors need to use hot-button issues like same-sex marriage to get out the vote among evangelical Christians, a Republican National Committee-sponsored lecturer told more than 100 ministers gathered in Eugene, Ore. David Barton, the second-highest ranking GOP official in President Bush's home state of Texas, also urged the pastors at the Tuesday lunchtime event to become more politically active and push their parishioners to register to vote, according to pastors who attended the event. Barton, of Ennis, Tex., heads a national group called WallBuilders, dedicated to restoring "the constitutional, moral, and religious foundation on which America was built." Critics say he's encroaching on the separation between church and state and risking churches' tax-exempt status in the process.
About a half-dozen protesters picketed his talk at Willamette Christian Center, which was closed to the media. Barton said a majority of evangelical Christians didn't vote in 2000. "We really do need people of faith to be involved in the civil arena, to vote and to care about the issues," he said. "They don't need to sit home and do nothing." During the address, Barton said, he recounted the Christian beliefs of the nation's Founding Fathers and tried to clarify what pastors can and can't do in the political arena. According to IRS guidelines, churches and other tax-exempt religious organizations cannot endorse individual candidates, but their pastors can preach on issues. Joan Pierson, a retired Presbyterian minister from Eugene, said Barton "talked a lot about the marriage stuff as an issue in Oregon that can help get out the vote." Barton also discussed issues such as school prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, saying that congressional votes on such matters have been intensely partisan, Pierson said. She noted that Barton made no mention of Bush or Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and said the word "Iraq" only once.