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The New York Times
Clergy Group Aims to Block Gay Marriage Amendment
By NEELA BANERJEE
Published: May 23, 2006
WASHINGTON, May 22 — An interfaith coalition of clergy members and lay leaders announced a petition drive on Monday aimed at blocking a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill on a vote along party lines last week, and the full Senate is expected to vote on it the week of June 5.
About 35 representatives of the coalition, Clergy for Fairness, said at a news conference that more than 1,600 clergy members had signed an online petition against the amendment. The group's Web site has postcards that lay people can print out and send to members of Congress.
By the end of this week, the site should have an electronic postcard as well, said Joe Conn, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an organizer of the lobbying effort but not in the coalition.
Among those represented by the coalition are clergy members and groups affiliated with mainline Protestant churches; the Interfaith Alliance; Jewish groups including the Anti-Defamation League, the Union for Reform Judaism and the National Council of Jewish Women; Sikh groups; and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.
Four weeks ago, 50 prominent conservative Christian and Jewish leaders, including evangelicals and Roman Catholic cardinals and archbishops, signed a petition backing the amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage.
Those leaders also promised to distribute postcards to their congregants to urge support of the amendment. The Knights of Columbus alone is distributing 10 million postcards to Catholic churches.
Few experts expect the marriage bill to pass this year. But state campaigns to ban same-sex marriage drew large numbers of people to the polls in 2004, and conservatives hope to mobilize voters by raising the issue again.
Moderate and liberal religious groups have recently made an effort to raise their profile on many issues, including those involving personal morality that many Americans had considered the domain of conservative Christians.
The clergy members at the news conference on Monday said that although the groups opposing the amendment were not of one mind on homosexuality or same-sex marriage, passage of the amendment would give deference to a single point of view and would make the Constitution an instrument of discrimination against a class of citizens.
"When one group is singled out for discrimination, it's not long before other groups will be singled out, too," said Rabbi Craig Axler of Congregation Beth Or in Maple Glen, Pa. "It's the first time we see the Constitution in danger of enshrining discrimination against one party, one class, and to remain silent as a Jew is unconscionable."