We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
If you’ve been reading along all this time, you know I’m a lesbian and I didn’t vote for Bush. I’m not really a Democrat, though I am registered as one right now. I’m of two minds about gay marriage. On the one hand, as my friend Dia says, ‘Marriage should be religious. Let the religions decide on it!’ On the other, I’d sure as hell like the tax break and the legal assist. My love for Ipstenit doesn’t require (for me) a wedding. I love her, I want to spend my life with her, and the rest of the world can fuck off if they have a problem. On that note, Dia again said ‘Let everyone have a Civil Union for a legal wedding in the country.’ I took it a step further and said ‘And charge us all, so we can eradicate the debt!’ This digressed into humor filled snark about how we’re fucked up money wise, and so on and so forth.
But this isn’t about should homosexuals be allowed to marry other homosexuals or not.
This is about the following question: Can Bush pass an amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman?
And one really big thing to keep in mind is that Bush only has until November to do it, because then he’s running for office again, and he’ll be busy.
The amendments are “limited to points which are important in the eyes of many and can be objectionable in those of none. The structure & stamina of Govt. are as little touched as possible.”
-Representative James Madison to Edmund Randolph, June 15, 1789
First we have to figure out how an amendment gets passed in the first place. I’m almost a decade removed from my US Government class, so I had to do some legwork to refresh my memory. The basic rule can be found in the US Constitution, Article V. I’ll summarize. Two-thirds of Congress, which must include both sides of the House, can propose amendments, OR the legislature of two-thirds of ‘several’ states can call for a convention for proposing an amendment. In either case, the proposed amendment must be ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states or by conventions in three-fourths of several states. There’s a bit at the end saying that no amendment may be made before 1808 that affects certain clauses in Article I, but since we’re almost 200 years after that date, we’re okay. The final bit says no state will be denied suffrage (right to vote) in the Senate.
Now all that legal hoopla said, how many of you followed and understand the process? Yeah, me neither. Let me try again.
The Constitution states that an amendment may be proposed either by Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures. None of the existing 27 amendments to the Constitution have been proposed by constitutional convention. Congress proposes an amendment in the form of a joint resolution. Since the President does not have a constitutional role in the amendment process, the joint resolution does not go to the White House for signature or approval.
At this point, we have a ‘proposed’ amendment, which gets passed to the States for their consideration. A letter of notification is sent to each state Governor, and the Governor must submit the proposed amendment to their State legislatures. Amusingly enough, some State legislatures have not bothered to wait for the official notice before taking action. At any rate, the State must chose to ratify (or not) the proposed amendment.
A proposed amendment becomes part of the Constitution as soon as it is ratified by three-fourths of the States (38 of 50 States).
I have to digress for a moment to point out that the Defense of Marriage Act was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, and prevents federal recognition of same-sex marriage, and allows States to ignore same-sex licenses from outside their borders.
Right now Amendment X says that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” In other words ‘If we didn’t decide it for the Nation, the states get to pick and choose.’
I’m going into dangerous territory now. The US Civil War was about Amendment X. Seriously. It wasn’t about slavery until Lincoln realized he might lose, and decided to get the North unified. The Civil War was about States Rights, pure and simple. The right of a State to make its own laws, within the structure and limits of the Constitution. Part of the reason our Founding Fathers set the nation to work like that was because they didn’t like how the Monarchy worked. One law for all people simply wasn’t working. But to permit variants on the law, and to respect the laws between States, seemed like a good idea at the time. Don’t like the laws in your State? Move!
Article IV of the Constitution is the ‘Full Faith and Credit’ Article, and says that “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.” That means that the marriage you get in Nevada by law is respected and legally binding in Mississippi. But … Wait, didn’t that Defense of Marriage Act say the States can ignore same-sex licenses from other States? Why yes, yes it did.
Which makes it un-Constitutional.
I’m not even going to bother touching on the discrimination aspect.
No matter what one’s position on marriage for gay couples, this ‘Marriage Amendment’ is little more than an election-year ploy to score political points at the expense of gay Americans. It is gratuitous, since gay couples cannot legally marry anywhere in the country except in Massachusetts, come May. In fact, I don’t put it past Bush to be pulling this ploy so people don’t ask ‘Where’s Bin Laden?’ or ‘Hey, did you actually bother going to the National Guard?’ This from the Shrub who claimed, when he was elected, that he was going to ‘Unify’ our nation. Nice job. You just pissed off at 10-15% of the country, as well as all our friends and family who think we should be able to get hitched.
Even funnier is the realization that Bush tried to pull himself to the middle of the road. He said that State legislatures should allowed to define “legal arrangements other than marriage,” suggesting that such an amendment would allow states to establish civil unions. That’s going to piss of the 10-15% of the country who want to ban same-sex marriages and unions.
This from the guy who won by the slimmest of margins. He can’t afford to piss people off this much in an election year!
John Kerry and John Edwards (the Democratic front runners for election) both agree that the marriage deal should be left up to the States. Edwards even went so far as to say “If [Bush] really wants to help married couples, what he should be doing is helping them with their economic problems, their health care problems.”
Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts said Bush would “go down in history as the first president to try to write discrimination back into the Constitution.”
The last time we amended the constitution to take away rights was (can you remember?) Amendment XVIII, written in 1919. 18. That’s your hint. That would be the ‘no alcohol in the US’ law. And what happened to that one? Check Amendment XXI from 1951. After almost 40 years of speakeasies and scoff laws, the government realized the fuckup and retracted. Hey, I can wait.
It’s going to be nigh impossible to get the 291 votes needed to pass the House, and even if he did, we the people still have to vote on it come November.
Bush is using the politics of fear to get reelected. I’m not afraid.
I’m not afraid and I’m patient.
Vote no on any Marriage Act, even if you think same-sex marriages are evil. If they can take away my rights, they can take yours. And isn’t that a terrifying thought.