The Presbyterian Church (USA) National Issues Committee voted against a proposed resolution to support the Federal Marriage Amendment, during the denomination’s General Assembly in Richmond, Virginia, Thursday, July 1, 2004.
The Rev. William C. Teng of the National Capital Presbytery spoke on behalf of the Amendment as one of its writers as he presented the resolution to the Committee.
"The purpose of the amendment is not to discriminate, but to affirm the institution of marriage. A small contingent of activist judges are redefining marriage for America,” said Teng. “The intent of this amendment is to move this debate from the judges to the people."
Going further, Teng explained the Federal Marriage Amendment "has to do with justice, fairness and the democratic process in America,” since it would allow the people’s voice to be heard on the issue.
“The people of America should be able to define what marriage is," said Teng. “If the American people decide that same-sex couples should marry, then so be it. But let the people decide."
Nevertheless, the committee voted against the resolution on the basis that supporting the Amendment would cause further dissention in an already divided church.
"This is a very volatile and divided issue – both the substance of the amendment and if it is even needed. I would like to see us not act on something that would further divide our denomination," said a committee member. "I don't want this motion to pass or not pass and I don't want it to be construed by the media or people in the pews of congregations that we are anti-marriage."
The committee also voted against a separate resolution that called for the churchwide opposition to the Amendment.
In place of both these resolutions, the Committee members chose to present a substitute amendment that follows a “middle ground” on the issue. The committee member who proposed the substitute resolution did so on the basis of unity, following the denomination’s historical “mainline” identity.
"Nothing the 216th General Assembly has said or acted upon is to be construed to state or imply a position for or against the Federal Marriage Amendment. General Assembly entities shall not advocate for or against the Federal Marriage Amendment,” the new substitute resolution stated.
The resolution will be presented before the General Assembly later this week for approval.