Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Senate Goes Nuts

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"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,"
By a 10-8 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee allowed a constitutional amendment with that language to go to the Senate Floor. Arlen Specter, that bastion of Constitutional scholarship, says that he's totally opposed to this, but is too gutless to stop it from going to the Senate floor. (Ok, I put in the gutless part, but he has said he is opposed to this) The reality is that this is a political ploy designed to whip up the nutjob wing of the Republican Party to come out and vote instead of staying home in November. ...more »It's designed to remind that wing of the party that if the Democrats win, those evil ho-mo-sex-uals will be running nekkid through the streets. However, I digress.

Regardless of whether you are for or against gay marriage, civil unions, or whatever anyone wants to call them, you need to be frightened about a phrase in that provision: nor the constitution of any State. If such a provision passes, it would, in effect, mandate an interpretation of a state constitution and forbid that state constitution to confer more rights on its citizens than the Federal Constitution does. To be sure, there are some states that judicially follow the "lockstep" doctrine and interpret their state's constitution to only give the rights that the Federal Constitution does. Fortunately, I live in a state that does not believe that. I live in a state that believes that it can grant its citizens more rights than the Federal Constitution does if it wants to. It can't go below that floor of the federal constitution, but it certainly can raise a higher ceiling.

Language such as that passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee is dangerous, because it would be a giant step toward limiting severely the concept that the states are to be the crucibles of change and innovation. It would be another step toward the idea that there really is no seperate state sovereignty and that the federal government subsumes all. This was never the intent of the founders of this country, or the drafters of the Constitution. States have always been permitted to grant state citizens broader rights than those granted by the Federal Constitution. By refusing states the ability to give its citizens greater rights than the federal government allows, the amendment trashes the entire concept of seperate statehood inside the United States.

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