Say No To A Constitutional Amendment Banning Gay Marriage

Mr. Cheney’s Wisdom (
We can amend our Constitution to say whatever we please, but not all amendments are good ideas. Even more, not all amendments further individual liberty and some even detract from it. An amendment banning gay marriages is one such amendment.

As this Post editorial points out, current federal law already allows states to ignore gay marriages in other states and a Constitutional amendment would set in stone what is already being handled by legislation. Individual states will reach their own conclusions with regard to gay marriage. This whole issue seems like red meat for social conservatives and, with an election coming up, it probably is just that.

Conservatives have often lamented that federalizing traditional state policymaking preempts democratic dialogue within and among states on matters of social controversy. All too often, however, the conservative suspicion of unbridled federal power fades when that power can be deployed to squelch state-level experiments that offend conservative sensibilities. But who exactly is harmed if Massachusetts, New Jersey or some other state decides to take the plunge? As Vice President Cheney eloquently put it during the 2000 vice presidential debate, “I think different states are likely to come to different conclusions and that’s appropriate. I don’t think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area.”

For an opposing view, sort of, look at this entry by Spoons. The reason I say “sort of” is that Spoons seems largely indifferent to the idea of gay marriage in and of itself. What he does seem to be tiring of is Andrew Sullivan’s constant ranting. I don’t read Sullivan that often, so I don’t have Spoons’s perspective on the matter.

I do disagree with his assertion that federalism is whatever we put in the Constitution. If I’m misreading him, I’m sure he’ll correct me. Federalism, if it is to have any meaning at all, has to be at the service of something. For me, that something is individual liberty.

The 14th amendment is a good example of us modifying the federalism the Founders gave us by expanding the scope of the federal government to include seeing that the states provided equal treatment under the law, even at the state level. That amendment, even though it expanded the purview of the federal government, enhanced individual liberty by providing a check against laws at the state level. An amendment that bans gay marriage will do the opposite.

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