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Tuesday, February 24, 2004
President Bush announced today that he favors amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage. Dumb idea. You don't use the Constitution to freeze social policy. And what happened to federalism? Why in the name of all that is holy should the federal government have any position at all on what constitutes a valid marriage, any more than it should have a position on what constitutes a valid deed?

I thought we might have figured out that the Constitution should not deal with matters of social policy when we fought the Civil War. Slavery, as far as I know, is the only non-governmental institution enshrined in the Constitution. And as a result of the fact that the Constittion explicitly protected the institution of slavery, the slave states objected when Lincoln was elected President. There followed a war that left the South in ruins and from which it did not recover from for a century or more.

The durability of the Constitution stems entirely from its flexibility and the drafters' refusal to say "this is how it shall be for ever and ever, amen" on all but a very few carefully chosen subjects. The Constitution provides a sparse description of the government it creates and allows succeeding generations some latitude in interpreting its provisions.

So I'll vote against the amendment to ban gay marriage (and vote against those of my representatives, if any, who favor it) when the time comes. The Constitution ain't broke, so don't fix it.

That said, I must add that I think that the proponents of gay marriage have not thought through the consequences of their position. Assuming that gay marriage is allowed anywhere, will the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution require recognition of a gay marriage everywhere? Yes, I know that there is a federal statute saying otherwise, but you simply can't change or limit constitutional mandates by statute. Will marriage be limited to two people? What about three or more? Why (or why not)? Will there continue to be proscriptions on marriages between close relatives? If marriage is no longer assumed to be the vehicle it is now for procreation or child rearing, why should the ban on marriages between siblings (or parent and child) continue? What will the consequences of a marriage be? As it stands now, marriage involves rights to citizenship, property, pensions and inheritances, tax and other governmental benefits, and health insurance, among many other things. Will any of that change? Why, or why not? Will Donald Trump be permitted under the "new marriage" to marry all of his children a year or two prior to the Donald's death in order to entitle the children to the benefit of the estate tax marital deduction? It's a silly idea, I know, but, then, I'm not the one advocating a change in the nature of a basic social institution.

While I don't particularly object to the immediate changes being proposed, some thought really must be given to the scope of the changes being introduced and what effect they will have on the institution and the existing benefits and emoluments associated with it before the changes are permitted to take effect.

I also feel compelled to add that this proposed amendment will have zero effect on my vote for President in 2004. I'm with Martin Devon: This election is all about ________ (insert issue: jobs, marriage, tax cuts ...). None of us will have ___________ (jobs, marriage, tax cuts ...) if we are dead, and al Qaeda wants us dead.

Bush has already convinced me that he's serious about the war, so my vote is his to lose as of now. But if Kerry can convince me he, too, is serious about this war, he has a shot at my vote.

Not that it will make any difference. I live and vote in New Jersey, which will undoubtedly go heavily for whoever the Democratic nominee is.
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