Time to protect Alabama families

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 22, 2004

In an earlier editorial, I took the opportunity to discuss the financial challenges facing Alabama and the need to change the way state government operates.

Since I was first elected to the legislature, enormous financial problems have plagued our state. In fact, even before the dust settled on the 2004 session, legislators were already being told of another $140 million shortfall in the 2006 state General Fund budget. Unfortunately little attention has been given to other, equally important, social issues facing our state.

It is time that we make some tough choices concerning the social direction of our state. During this past session, bills failed which would outlaw same-sex marriages and protect unborn children.

In poll after poll, the majority of Alabamians agree that the institution of marriage should be held sacred and that unborn children deserve legal protections. Why then do these bills fail to pass when they are considered by the Alabama Legislature?

In short, the vocal minority are effective communicators. Anyone supporting a pro-family agenda is labeled as a radical or fanatical. The issues we face have also been redefined to fit the beliefs of the few.

For instance, consider the recent uproar concerning the Pledge of Allegiance. The voice of an extremely small number of citizens was successful in getting a federal court to deem our Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional.

Those supporting the phrase, &uot;one nation under God,&uot; were referred to as insensitive and backward. Although later overturned, the message is still clear, American values are in danger and the rights of the few are taking precedence over the rights of the many.

The Alabama Legislature missed two opportunities earlier this year to restore the faith of Alabamians in our families and commitment to values.

First, abortion advocates charged that efforts to protect unborn children in the Unborn Fetus Protection Act would be an unjustified restriction on the rights of women. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I stand firmly against abortion and support this legislation. If a mother is harmed before giving birth and the unborn baby is harmed in the process, in my mind, the criminal has committed a crime against two people, not one.

Second, legislation failed which would have prohibited any court in Alabama from recognizing a same-sex marriage. Nationally, the sanctity of marriage, the relationship between one man and one woman, has come under attack. The legal institution of marriage is one that must be preserved.

Giving same-sex couples the right to marry devalues true marriage. Please remember that marriage is a privilege, not a right.

Any adult is permitted, or privileged, to marry another adult of the opposite sex, but you can’t marry a child, you can’t marry a blood relative, you can’t marry someone already married and you can’t marry someone of the same sex.

There are justifiable limits on the institution of marriage. The limitation on same-sex marriages is a mere extension of those limits.

Our traditional families have long been the moral compass for our communities.

Recognizing same-sex marriages devalues families and we should be proactive in protecting the institution of marriage.

Inevitably, there will be a question of whether to allow gay marriages in Alabama. The legislation proposed during this past legislative session would have answered this important question. Unfortunately, the bill failed.

There is one common theme, which runs through these two social issues – judicial activism.

Courts exist to interpret the law, not make law. Today, judges across our country, and even within Alabama, are incorrectly assuming that laws can be made from the bench.

Every time a court judge makes a new rule, he or she is taking power away from you, the voters of our state. Legislators are elected to make laws, and every opinion of a judge who makes law, takes that much power away from you.

Judicial activism must be controlled. However, it can only be controlled by the legislature taking more active roles in legislating important issues, not ignoring them.

The Alabama House of Representatives needs to pursue these social issues more aggressively during the next legislative session. Almost daily, I receive a telephone call, letter or an e-mail from a constituent concerning the growing attacks on our values.

Although we must always respect the voice of the minority, we also must protect the rights of the majority. Promoting legislation protecting families and unborn children is not fanatical or extreme; it is simply representing my district and defending the mainstream values that an overwhelming majority of citizens support.

Cam Ward serves as representative for District 49 of the Alabama State Legislature. He resides in Alabaster with his wife, Julie, and his daughter, Riley