Gay Marriage Amendment

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From an article on the proposed Gay Marriage Amendment: “Bush plans to endorse language introduced by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.) that backers contend would ban gay marriage but not prevent state legislatures from allowing the kind of civil unions and same-sex partnership arrangements that exist in Vermont and California. …

“Musgrave’s proposal, called the Federal Marriage Amendment, states: ‘Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of 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.'”

This is bizarre. First, what would happen to bigamy statutes which prohibit one man marrying two women? One reading of the amendment would be that marriage is “defined” so that bigamy cannot exist–after all, it’s not just “a” man and “a” woman. So would bigamy now be decriminalized? Second, even this wording does not seem to prohibit “gay marriage”. Suppose Louisiana passed a law permitting gays to marry. They are not being required to do it by a judge or the feds; they just do it. Does this amendment mean that even a clear law letting gays marry can’t be “construed” to mean what it says? And what is “marital status”? Does it refer to the status that society confers upon marriage? If so, how can the Constitution affect it? Or does it simply refer to the *label* used in the state statutes? After all, even its drafters admit civil unions could be permitted–these could be identical to marriage in every way except the label used in the title of the statute.

In sum, this proposed amendment seems to do the following: it prevents judges from forcing states to include gays in their marriage laws. But it does not seem to prevent states from having civil unions, or even from enacting their own marriage laws.

Nor does it seem to do a good job at making it clear that one state’s gay marriage laws need not be given full faith and credit by others.

A better amendment would be simply: “No State may be required by the Federal government, including Federal judges, to recognize gay marriage, nor to give full faith and credit to gay marriage laws of Sister States.”

An even better amendment would be: “The Federal government shall have no power to tax.” Let’s keep our eyes on the ball, people!

N.B.: I am of course NOT calling for or endorsing a constitutional amendment or convention–I don’t trust any of these bozos.

2:31 pm on February 24, 2004