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Broken Home Shapes Man Who Wrote Marriage Amendment

Wednesday, 25 February 2004 12:00 AM

He has seen the negative effects of a non-traditional family first-hand. Having been raised in poverty without a father, he is sure of his beliefs.

Daniels is a lawyer who, along with Robert Bork, helped write a proposed constitutional amendment that, if passed, would block recognition of same-sex marriages.

Once the concept of same-sex marriages began to circulate among the mainstream, he said, he knew it would someday grow large enough to threaten traditional families, mom-and-dad two-parent households, the kind he was denied.

As he leads a conservative movement to define marriage as that only between a man and a woman, he says he's not driven by a disdain for gays. Instead, he wants children to have the kind of life growing up he was denied.

"The absence of my father from our family left us vulnerable …. My mother probably would not have slipped into a lifelong depression had she had another person to bear the burdens of raising a child," he told the Los Angeles Times.

He says his effort to "protect the commonsense view of marriage" has now propelled him onto the national stage of politics.

Daniels' proposed amendment is a two-sentence declaration: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union between a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

The amendment would not keep states from allowing same-sex civil unions or domestic partnerships. Daniels said he believed that only such a broader amendment could be passed.

Passage of an amendment requires two-thirds approval in the House and in Senate, as well as three-fourths of state Legislatures. The process often takes years, and the

The measure has been introduced in both houses of Congress. So far, 114 lawmakers have signed on, and President Bush announced this week he, too, would support it.

"This is an institution with unique benefits for kids, and we tamper with it at our peril," Daniels told the Times. "It is my belief that the union of a man and a woman creates a human community that has unique benefits for children."

His interest in seeing the amendment passed stems not from his political credentials – he's anything but a polished Washington lobbyist, the newspaper says – but from his longtime support of traditional two-parent homes.

Four years ago he founded Alliance for Marriage, a nonpartisan, interfaith coalition that is small, especially in comparison to longtime family defenders such as Family Research Council.


Daniels is a registered Republican and practicing Presbyterian. Though the nature of the cause is conservative, his is a "centrist movement," he says. "I have the wounds from the right and the left to prove it."

Some conservative groups don't believe his amendment goes far enough because it does not ban civil unions between gay couples.

"Civil unions are gay marriages by another name," says Robert Knight, director of Culture and Family Institute, an affiliate of Concerned Women for America. "This would in effect put into the Constitution a guarantee that states could do something that we regard as immoral and destructive."

Noted political guru

Still, Daniels says he is more interested in sanctifying traditional families than shutting others out of non-traditional relationships.

He says his father, "an aspiring intellectual and irresponsible man," walked out on him and his mother in a rough part of Manhattan when he was 2. He said his father "would live off women. The kid would come along, and he would split. He married four times; my mom was No. 2."

His mother worked hard until one day she got off at the wrong bus stop and was mugged by four men. Her back broken, she lost her job and, suffering emotionally and physically, turned to alcohol. With no other source of income, Daniels and his mother were forced to turn to welfare.

"There was no second source of income, and we were compelled to go on welfare," Daniels said. "If my father had been in our home, chances are that would not have happened."

Daniels' ticket out was an Ivy League education.

He attended Dartmouth College before going to the University of Pennsylvania Law School, then earning a doctorate in politics from Brandeis University.

While in law school, he studied the issue of families without fathers. At Brandeis, he researched the manner in which courts are used for social change, and it bothered him.

He said other conservative groups were focused on finding ways to stop abortions and stem-cell research. Instead, he tracked lawsuits used to "strike down our marriage laws."

Jurists, he reasoned, were using courts to engineer social changes against the will of the majority of Americans. The only way to stop this, he believed, was to pass a constitutional amendment.

The effects of growing up without his father at home carried into Daniels' formation of Alliance for Marriage. Its mission: "More children raised at home with a mother and father."

The organization has tackled a range of marriage and family issues, such as efforts to prevent the breakup of families, the elimination of penalties for welfare recipients who marry, reducing the "marriage tax" and making workplaces more marriage-friendly.

Still, Daniels believed the issue of same-sex marriages would prove to be the biggest battle, after the courts' acceptance of gay weddings collided with the mainstream perception of traditional marriage.

Last fall that happened: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ordered state lawmakers to strike down a law banning same-sex marriages.

When the state high court reaffirmed its decision this month, many conservatives demanded a constitutional amendment banning such unions.

Enter Daniels, language in hand.

Support for his amendment soon began to snowball, especially after incidents like that in San Francisco, where the mayor directed the city clerk to change the wording on marriage licenses in February. The result: Over Valentine's Day weekend, more than 1,000 same-sex couples lined up to exchange vows.

Though some conservatives would like stronger wording, Daniels is nevertheless trolling for additional support for his amendment.

"If you assert a lesbian couple is the full functional equivalent of a male-female family, you are making the claim that half the human race — dads — make no unique contribution to the care or nurturing of children," he told the Times. "And the same holds true for mothers. Each has different and complementary gifts needed to raise a child."

He insists his effort is not aimed at persecuting gays; he says he met more than he could count during his college years. Rather, Daniels says the sanctity of the traditional home is his most important goal.

But he admits something he knows the amendment wouldn't change: human behavior.

Asked if his amendment would have prevented his father from leaving, he conceded, "No, it wouldn't."


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He has seen the negative effects of a non-traditional family first-hand. Having been raised in poverty without a father, he is sure of his beliefs. Daniels is a lawyer who, along with Robert Bork, helped write a proposed constitutional amendment that, if passed, would...
Wednesday, 25 February 2004 12:00 AM
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