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To U.S. Constitution: Religious leaders sign the petition that would guard 'traditional' unions
By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune

TheLDS Church has joined a national religious coalition to push anamendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage asbetween a man and a woman.
LDS Apostle Russell M. Nelson joined 50prominent Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Jewish leaders in signinga petition explaining why they see a need for such a constitutionalamendment.

"We are convinced thatthis is the only measure that will adequately protect marriage fromthose who would circumvent the legislative process and force aredefinition of it on the whole of our society," reads the petitionreleased to the public on Monday. The Church of Jesus Christ ofLatter-day Saints issued a statement acknowledging its involvement withthe Religious Coalition for Marriage, but spokesman Dale Bills declinedany further comment and said Nelson was granting no interviews.
The petition isn't the first attempt to amend the Constitution in regard to marriage.
A similar effort failed in 2004, but it did generate significantopposition to same-sex marriage that helped bring many conservativevoters to the polls in some pivotal states in 2004. That same year,Utah amended its own constitution to define marriage as the legal unionbetween a man and a woman - a move the LDS Church endorsed. The churchhas issued two previous statements in support of a constitutionalamendment on marriage, and its position is clearly laid out in the 1994document, "The Family: A Proclamation to the World."
ValerieLarabee, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center ofUtah, said she was disappointed but not surprised by this new drive toamend the U.S. Constitution.
"The Constitution is a very empoweringdocument," Larabee said Monday. "This is the first time it would beused to take away rights, rather than extend them."
The U.S. hasmany bigger problems to face than how to define marriage, she said."It's time to stop discriminating against [gays and lesbians] forsomething they have no control over."
Since the passage of Utah'smarriage amendment, many gays and lesbians have gone to extraordinarylengths to avoid discrimination in the workplace and protect theirfamilies, Larabee said. "If Utah voters truly knew the impact ofAmendment 3, they'd be disgusted."
This new effort is nothing morethan "political pandering and an electoral distraction," said ScottMcCoy, an openly gay state senator who helped organize opposition toUtah's marriage amendment.
Congress is not likely to pass aconstitutional amendment, nor should it, McCoy said. "Domesticrelations law has never been a federal issue, not for 200 years."
Proponents of a traditional marriage definition say a constitutionalamendment would immediately shut down all legal challenges to it acrossthe nation.
Currently, there are


courtcases in Washington, California, Iowa, New York, Connecticut, NewJersey and Maryland, said Monte Stewart, executive director of theMarriage Law Foundation in Orem.
"They are demanding that the courtredefine marriage as the union of any two people," Stewart said. "Itwould end all the pending court cases and would give the U.S. a uniformdefinition of marriage."
Both the organizers and gay rights groupssaid what was striking about this new petition drive was the directinvolvement by high-ranking Roman Catholic officials, including 16bishops. Although the church has long opposed same-sex unions, and theUnited States Conference of Catholic Bishops had previously endorsedthe idea of a constitutional amendment banning such unions, evangelicalProtestants generally led the charge when the amendment was debated in2004.
The petition drive was organized in part by Robert P. Georgeof Princeton, a Catholic scholar with close ties to evangelicalProtestant groups. Aides to three Republican senators - Bill Frist ofTennessee, the Republican leader; Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania; andSam Brownback of Kansas - were also involved, organizers said.
Organizers said the petition had brought together cardinals from boththe left and right sides of the United States bishops' conference,including the liberal Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles and theconservative Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, as well as CardinalsEdward M. Egan of New York, Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington,William H. Keeler of Baltimore and Sean Patrick O'Malley of Boston.
The prominent conservative Protestant figures included leaders of theSouthern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination, aswell as the president of conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synodand a handful of Episcopal bishops.
Matt Daniels, founder of theAlliance for Marriage, an umbrella group that supports the proposedamendment, said the religious leaders represented "huge numbers" ofpeople. His group has set up a Web site, http://www.religiouscoalitionformarriage.org , which includes the petition, pew handouts and suggested notes for sermons.
The New York Times contributed to this story.