Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 24, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

MORE ON GAY MARRIAGE....Some miscellanous thoughts on a gay marriage amendment:

  • One of the reasons I think this is purely political posturing on Bush's part is that a constitutional amendment on gay marriage has almost no chance of passing. The polls I've seen show roughly 55-60% in favor (some higher, some lower) and that's probably not nearly enough. After all, the ERA had upwards of 90% support when it was first proposed, but it stalled at 35 states even though it also had the advantage of being on the right side of social trends. FMA has much lower levels of support, is clearly on the wrong side of long-term trends toward greater tolerance of gays, and is a highly partisan issue. It's a loser.

  • The text of the leading amendment proposal is this:

    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.

    Is the intent of the second sentence merely to prevent courts from forcing gay marriage on states without legislative approval, or is it to ban both gay marriage and civil unions entirely?

    Eugene Volokh and Ramesh Ponnuru have long and learned opinions about this, but I have a short and simple one: it's designed to ban everything. Why do I say this? Because it would be quite easy to construct wording that made their intent clear if the amendment's drafters wanted to. The fact that they've chosen deliberately confusing language indicates that they're hoping to ban everything but are also hoping to fool people into thinking otherwise.

  • It's hard to pretend to be a "compassionate conservative" when you've so publicly allied yourself with a group that's almost certain to be publicly frothing at the mouth over this before long. Maybe the whole compassionate conservative thing is a dead letter anyway, but I have to think that some people continue to believe it. They probably won't for much longer.

Finally, I have to say that John Kerry's response to Bush's statement wasn't very impressive. He's for civil unions, which is fine, but also said he'd support an amendment as long as it allowed for that. I wish he were willing to take a stronger stand against any kind of constitutional amendment instead of indulging in this kind of all-too-typical fence straddling.

UPDATE: It appears that I was fooled by a video clip that failed to include the context of Kerry's remarks. He was talking about possible state amendments, not expressing support for a differently worded federal amendment. More here.

Kevin Drum 4:54 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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