Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Marriage Amendment

Tomorrow, the United States Senate will likely vote on S.J. Res 40, The Federal Marriage Amendment.

To be sure, the proposed amendment is quite controversial. In fact, not all conservatives are on the same page as to whether or not amending the United States Constitution is a correct policy decision.

I'm going to try to sum up the three most serious and legitimate schools of thought on this as best and as impartially as I can before sharing my thoughts.

School 1: Marriage is a sacred institution. For religious and other reasons, marriage has always been recognized in this country as a union between one man and one woman. Therefore, Congress should do everything possible to protect that institution, including a constitutional amendment. For the amendment.

School 2: For moral reasons, marriage should be between one man and one woman. However, this is not really a federal issue. It should be left to the states to decide how they want to define marriage. Split.

School 3: Marriage should not be restricted to one man and one woman. Homosexual relationships are just as valid as heterosexual relationships. Therefore, the federal government should not put any impediments in the way of advancing homosexual marriage. Opposed to the amendment.

My school: The definition of marriage should be left to the states. However, activist judges have used linguistic gymnastics to read a right to homosexual marriage into the federal and state constitutions. In other words, despite the fact that state legislatures have overwhelmingly refused to redifine marriage in their states so as to put homosexual unions on the same footing with heterosexual marriage, courts have stepped in to require that result in some instances.

It is for this reason that an amendment to the federal constitution is needed. States will not truly be free to make their own policies on the issue of gay marriage unless there is an amendment that precludes judges from bizarre textual distortions.

Here is the text of the proposed amendment:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. 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.

As you can see, the proposed amendment does not actually ban gay marriage. It merely states that no constitutions will be read so as to require gay marriage. State legislatures would still be perfectly free to re-write their own statutes in order to permit gay marriage.

Unfortunately, proponents of the amendment have done a poor job of framing this issue while gay rights activists have done an excellent job of portraying the amendment as a federal attempt to strip power from the states. In reality, though, gay rights activists oppose the amendment not because it actually bans gay marriage but because they know that the only way that gay marriage will gain widespread legality is if that decision remains in the hands of unaccountable judges instead of in the hands of elected officials in the individual states.

This is another example of a liberal sub-group of society trying to accomplish through the judiciary what they cannot accomplish at the ballot box. An amendment is needed on this issue so as to leave policy making in the hands of elected legislators.