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LDS to push marriage amendment

Letter asks members to air support for restrictions on lawful marriage

Voice your support for a federal marriage amendment, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints urges in a letter to be read in LDS sacrament meetings Sunday.

The letter, sent to priesthood leaders in the United States, calls on Latter-day Saints to contact their senators to support a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment that would limit lawful marriages to those between a man and a woman.

To further spell out its opposition to same-sex marriages, the amendment states that: "Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman."

A Senate vote on the resolution is expected the week of June 5. A previous vote failed in the Senate but passed the House. Any future amendment would require approval by two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the states.

The LDS Church posted its letter to priesthood leaders on its Web site, but its communications office declined to comment further.

"We, as the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, have repeatedly set forth our position that the marriage of a man and a woman is the only acceptable marriage relationship," the letter reads.

"Disappointing," says openly gay state Sen. Scott McCoy about the letter. "It's no surprise as to what the church's position is on same-sex marriage and the amendment," says McCoy, D-Salt Lake. "But I find it disappointing that the church is being drawn into what is nothing more than election year grandstanding on the part of the Republican Party. It's an attempt to distract voters from the total mismanagement of the country they've been responsible for in the past two years."

News of the letter was received with a "Great!" at the conservative, Colorado-based Focus on the Family. "The timing is wonderful," says Peter Brandt, senior director of public policy. Focus on the Family has sent out its own letter to 135,000 U.S. pastors, offering them pre-printed postcards in support of the amendment. "We've distributed a million or so postcards," Brandt says. The group has also launched phone campaigns in 14 states where Senate members voted against the amendment the last time. Utah is not on the list.

Religious groups are also lining up for and against the proposed amendment.

A coalition calling itself Clergy for Fairness is campaigning against it. Among its members are leaders of Reform Judaism, the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ.

Last month the LDS Church officially signed on to another letter, written on behalf of the Religious Coalition for Marriage, that called for a national marriage amendment. Elder Russell M. Nelson, a member of the church's Quorum of the Twelve, signed the letter along with 49 other religious leaders from around the country.

In 2004, two-thirds of Utah voters passed a state version of the marriage amendment, which changed the Utah Constitution to specifically ban gay marriages. Four months earlier, the First Presidency of the LDS Church issued a brief statement saying that the church "favors a constitutional amendment preserving marriage as the lawful union of a man and a woman."