Thursday, June 01, 2006

More than this

Homosexuality is but one facet in the debate over the proposed federal marriage amendment. Much more is at stake than simply outlawing same-sex unions.

Will literalist religious dogma dictate our laws? Are conservatives going to be true to their historical ideology of limited government and state supremacy or bow to the inconsistent ideology (see: Terri Schiavo) of the fundamentalist right? Odds are against the FMA passing, but those in the middle will face intense pressure from the likes of Dobson and Falwell. It'll be a fascinating process to observe, one that will reveal much about the future of the conservative movement.

Blogger and law professor Dale Carpenter presents a convincing, and sober, argument against the amendment --

A person who opposes same-sex marriage on policy grounds can and should also oppose a constitutional amendment foreclosing it, on grounds of federalism, confidence that opponents will prevail without an amendment, or a belief that public policy issues should only rarely be determined at the constitutional level.

There are four main arguments against the FMA. First, a constitutional amendment is unnecessary because federal and state laws, combined with the present state of the relevant constitutional doctrines, already make court-ordered nationwide same-sex marriage unlikely for the foreseeable future. An amendment banning same-sex marriage is a solution in search of a problem.

Second, a constitutional amendment defining marriage would be a radical intrusion on the nation's founding commitment to federalism in an area traditionally reserved for state regulation, family law. There has been no showing that federalism has been unworkable in the area of family law.

Third, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage would be an unprecedented form of amendment, cutting short an ongoing national debate over what privileges and benefits, if any, ought to be conferred on same-sex couples and preventing democratic processes from recognizing more individual rights.

Fourth, the amendment as proposed is constitutional overkill that reaches well beyond the stated concerns of its proponents, foreclosing not just courts but also state legislatures from recognizing same-sex marriages and perhaps other forms of legal support for same-sex relationships. Whatever one thinks of same-sex marriage as a matter of policy, no person who cares about our Constitution and public policy should support this unnecessary, radical, unprecedented, and overly broad departure from the nation's traditions and history.

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