The Federal Marriage Amendment Is a Very Bad Idea

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Mr.
Speaker, while I oppose federal efforts to redefine marriage as
something other than a union between one man and one woman, I do
not believe a constitutional amendment is either a necessary or
proper way to defend marriage.

While
marriage is licensed and otherwise regulated by the states, government
did not create the institution of marriage. In fact, the institution
of marriage most likely pre-dates the institution of government!
Government regulation of marriage is based on state recognition
of the practices and customs formulated by private individuals interacting
in civil society. Many people associate their wedding day with completing
the rituals and other requirements of their faith, thus being joined
in the eyes of their church and their creator, not with receiving
their marriage license, thus being joined in the eyes of the state.

If
I were in Congress in 1996, I would have voted for the Defense of
Marriage Act, which used Congress’s constitutional authority to
define what official state documents other states have to recognize
under the Full Faith and Credit Clause, to ensure that no state
would be forced to recognize a “same sex” marriage license
issued in another state. This Congress, I was an original cosponsor
of the Marriage Protection Act, HR 3313, that removes challenges
to the Defense of Marriage Act from federal courts’ jurisdiction.
If I were a member of the Texas legislature, I would do all I could
to oppose any attempt by rogue judges to impose a new definition
of marriage on the people of my state.

Having
studied this issue and consulted with leading legal scholars, including
an attorney who helped defend the Boy Scouts against attempts to
force the organization to allow gay men to serve as scoutmasters,
I am convinced that both the Defense of Marriage Act and the Marriage
Protection Act can survive legal challenges and ensure that no state
is forced by a federal court’s or another state’s actions to recognize
same sex marriage. Therefore, while I am sympathetic to those who
feel only a constitutional amendment will sufficiently address this
issue, I respectfully disagree. I also am concerned that the proposed
amendment, by telling the individual states how their state constitutions
are to be interpreted, is a major usurpation of the states’ power.
The division of power between the federal government and the states
is one of the virtues of the American political system. Altering
that balance endangers self-government and individual liberty. However,
if federal judges wrongly interfere and attempt to compel a state
to recognize the marriage licenses of another state, that would
be the proper time for me to consider new legislative or constitutional
approaches.

Conservatives
in particular should be leery of anything that increases federal
power, since centralized government power is traditionally the enemy
of conservative values. I agree with the assessment of former Congressman
Bob Barr, who authored the Defense of Marriage Act:

“The
very fact that the FMA [Federal Marriage Amendment] was introduced
said that conservatives believed it was okay to amend the Constitution
to take power from the states and give it to Washington. That is
hardly a basic principle of conservatism as we used to know it.
It is entirely likely the left will boomerang that assertion into
a future proposed amendment that would weaken gun rights or mandate
income redistribution."

Passing
a constitutional amendment is a long, drawn-out process. The fact
that the marriage amendment already failed to gather the necessary
two-thirds support in the Senate means that, even if two-thirds
of House members support the amendment, it will not be sent to states
for ratification this year. Even if the amendment gathers the necessary
two-thirds support in both houses of Congress, it still must go
through the time-consuming process of state ratification. This process
requires three-quarters of the state legislatures to approve the
amendment before it can become effective. Those who believe that
immediate action to protect the traditional definition of marriage
is necessary should consider that the Equal Rights Amendment easily
passed both houses of Congress and was quickly ratified by a number
of states. Yet, that amendment remains unratified today. Proponents
of this marriage amendment should also consider that efforts to
amend the Constitution to address flag burning and require the federal
government to balance the budget have been ongoing for years, without
any success.

Ironically,
liberal social engineers who wish to use federal government power
to redefine marriage will be able to point to the constitutional
marriage amendment as proof that the definition of marriage is indeed
a federal matter! I am unwilling either to cede to federal courts
the authority to redefine marriage, or to deny a state’s ability
to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. Instead, I believe
it is time for Congress and state legislatures to reassert their
authority by refusing to enforce judicial usurpations of power.

In
contrast to a constitutional amendment, the Marriage Protection
Act requires only a majority vote of both houses of Congress and
the president’s signature to become law. The bill already has passed
the House of Representatives; at least 51 senators would vote for
it; and the president would sign this legislation given his commitment
to protecting the traditional definition of marriage. Therefore,
those who believe Congress needs to take immediate action to protect
marriage this year should focus on passing the Marriage Protection
Act.

Because
of the dangers to liberty and traditional values posed by the unexpected
consequences of amending the Constitution to strip power from the
states and the people and further empower Washington, I cannot in
good conscience support the marriage amendment to the United States
Constitution. Instead, I plan to continue working to enact the Marriage
Protection Act and protect each state’s right not to be forced to
recognize a same sex marriage.

See
the Ron Paul File

October
1, 2004

Dr. Ron
Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.

The
Best of Ron Paul

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