Shows Wants To Define Marriage To Exclude Same-Sex Couples

U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows says states' rights would be protected by a proposed federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.

During a news conference Friday between the state Capitol and First Baptist Church of Jackson, Shows, D-Miss., said activist groups have been challenging states' laws that ban same-sex marriages. He said the proposed amendment would prevent federal courts from overturning those laws.

"I would rather have elected people make decisions for me than unelected judges,'' Shows said.

The proposal says, "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.''

Mississippi since 1997 has had a law banning same-sex marriages. Shows said he didn't know how the proposed federal amendment would protect the rights of any state that chooses to recognize gay or lesbian marriages.

Shows faces U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., in a newly drawn central Mississippi district this year.

In a written statement Friday, Pickering said: "I am opposed to same-sex marriages and I support the idea of this bill, but in many ways this issue was addressed in 1996 when the Defense of Marriage Act was approved by Congress and signed into law.''

Jody Renaldo, executive director of the Jackson-based gay rights group Equality Mississippi, cited 2000 Census numbers that show 3,544 people in the new central Mississippi congressional district identified themselves as being part of a same-sex couple. There are about 711,000 people in the district.

Renaldo said Shows is playing election-year politics.

"It's political posturing,'' Renaldo said. "Shows is trying to get Pickering's conservative voters.''

Shows said he's not angling for political advantage. He said the Alliance of Marriage approached him to sponsor the bill because of his voting record for family issues.

He's among three Democrats and three Republicans sponsoring the proposed amendment. Shows was surrounded at his news conference by six ministers.

"Thank God for a man like you that stands on moral principles and recognizes that in the beginning God made man for woman and not man for man,'' said the Rev. Martin Washington, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church of Hazlehurst. "We're going to stand with you and we're going to win with God.''

The last constitutional amendment to pass Congress was in 1992. It would take a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate and ratification from three-fourths of the states to change the Constitution.