By Sarah Chacko
Killeen Daily Herald
Seventeen states have drawn the line on the issue of marriage, defining it as a monogamous heterosexual union.
In less than two weeks, Texans will decide on which side of that line the state will stand.
Nine constitutional amendments will be brought forward to voters Nov. 8, but none have raised as many eyebrows, voices and crosses as Proposition No. 2, commonly known as the marriage amendment.
The proposed amendment would add only two lines to Article 1 of the Texas Constitution, declaring that marriage in this state consists only of the union of one man and one woman and prohibiting Texas or a political subdivision of this state from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage.
However, those two lines alone are enough to determine how people will view not only personal rights but lifestyles as well.
The Rev. Paul Moore, rector of St. Christophers Episcopal Church in Killeen, agrees that same-sex couples are based on the same components of heterosexual marriage two people, a lifelong commitment.
But that is just about the place where it ends, he said. To me, its not a marriage. Its a different animal.
In August 2003, the Episcopal Church approved the election of its first openly gay bishop.
While the Killeen church urged its delegates to vote against Robinsons election as bishop, Moore said severing ties would prevent them from being able to change the church from within.
The line distinguishing which religious principles are culturally antiquated and which still apply is drawn by what is good for the church, Moore said. The heterosexual marriage has been considered a sacrament of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the church, he said.
Calling a homosexual relationship sacramental doesnt fly with me, he said.
Alma Jean Jackson, director of the Fort Hood Area office of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Central Texas, said she doesnt understand how her marriage to a same-sex partner is going to destroy the marriage of the heterosexual couple down the street.
Do I have that much power? she asked. Is heterosexual marriage in this country so fragile, so insecure, so unstable that you need to ban the marriage of other people?
The 2000 census says nearly 43,000 households in Texas reported two people who were unmarried partners of the same sex, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Moore said homosexuality is becoming a buzz word in modern society. The dont ask, dont tell mentality is being pushed by gay rights activist groups to the cultural stage, he said.
Texas is traditionally a pretty conservative place, but its changing, he said. Even the definition of conservative is changing.
Religious and political doctrine have significantly changed over the years. Less than 40 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated laws banning interracial marriage.
If were going to base it on religion, if I was a black American, I think Id be a little bit worried, Jackson said.
Moore acknowledged that there are many deviations from the Bibles moral code that dont get called out in todays society, such as premarital sex or having children out of wedlock.
We arent screaming about that, he said.
However as the focus of culture and religion evolve, Moore said the church must keep tradition in mind.
Otherwise well just repeat stupid mistakes, he said.
In 2003 the Legislature passed the Defense of Marriage Act for one of the same reasons they are pushing now as a response to court cases and legislative actions in a number of states on the issue of same-sex marriage and civil unions, according to the Texas Legislative Council.
Constitutional challenges to the Vermont state marriage law led to the legalization of civil unions in 2000. Upon a Massachusetts courts decision, the state began granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples in May 2004.
The Massachusetts Legislature responded that same year with the preliminary approval of a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between opposite-sex couples and establish a system of civil unions for same-sex couples with the same benefits, protections, and rights as those granted to heterosexual couples.
According to the TLCs analysis of the amendment, the definition of traditional marriage which was added to the constitutions of 17 states were all approved by voters by substantial margins and President George W. Bush has endorsed a similar amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The DOMA declares that a same-sex marriage or a civil union is contrary to the public policy of this state and is void in this state. It further prohibits any right or claim to legal protection, benefit or responsibility asserted as a result of the same-sex marriage or civil union.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas have taken up the No Nonsense in November campaign, opposing the amendment that is an affront to our state bill of rights, which was drafted to protect and affirm individual liberty.
The ACLU also accused the Legislature of failing to solve real problems, like school finance and property tax reform, in lieu of focusing on issues like sexy cheerleading and this amendment that is discriminatory, hateful and divisive.
The Bill of Rights is a sacred document that for more than one hundred years was used to afford rights to all Texans, the ACLUs posted statement reads. It is Nonsense to change it to deny rights to some Texans.
According to the Texas Legislative Councils analysis, the joint resolution in which the constitutional amendment is proposed also includes a non-amendatory provision recognizing that persons may designate guardians, appoint agents, and use private contracts to appoint guardians and arrange rights relating to hospital visitation, property, and the entitlement to proceeds of life insurance policies, without the existence of any legal status identical or similar to marriage.
From a financial aspect, Jackson said, she could save a couple hundred dollars a month if she could be on her partners insurance or vice versa.
Some fear the language included in the amendment is too vague, broader than DOMAs definition of civil union.
The proposed amendment ... has the potential for being interpreted to nullify common law marriages or legal agreements, including powers of attorney and living wills, between married persons, the TLCs analysis stated.
Jackson and her partner spent more than $1,200 for a revocable tract saying that if Jackson dies, her partner will get everything, she said. But there is still a good chance someone could contest it.
Heterosexual couples dont have to do that, she said.
Jackson said marriage isnt the end-all-be-all for her. Though it would be nice to be afforded a ceremony, a civil union is a welcome alternative.
Then I wont worry when Im in the grave, she said.
Texas is just part of the process, not the standard, Jackson said.
Whatever Texas does, its just going to be an evolutionary change as far as the human race is concerned, she said.
Moore said the state may be more concerned with insurance and benefits than really what constitutes marriage, but the leadership role the state and federal government plays is vital to the structure of society.
Legal text can be interpreted several different ways but allowing the state to define something like marriage boils it down to more than just a sexual issue, he said.
Even the Ku Klux Klan has taken a stake in the issue, planning to march on the Capitol Nov. 5 in support of the amendment.
Though no public remarks were made, a representative with the Imperial Klans of America speaking for the American White Knights gave a statement saying: We believe that as Christians we have an obligation under god to take a stand against homosexuality. Homosexuality is a sin and an abomination to God and goes against our Lords plans for the human race.
Jackson said if people are basing their decisions on Scripture, it should open a whole can of religiously tabooed worms.
If they pass this ban, theyre going to have to pass another one that Catholics cannot get a divorce, she said.
If the amendment passes, Jackson said it is just going to make the homosexual community work that much harder to stand up for their rights.
Were not going to give up our rights to live our lives with dignity, she said. They are saying to you ... you have no value in my eyes. I have news for them, I have value in my eyes. They can never change that.
Contact Sarah Chacko at firstname.lastname@example.org