Tuesday, May 02, 2006

No on this "marriage amendment"

We don't need our constitution to tell us that the sky is blue.

My home state, Wisconsin, has joined this year's round of referendums on amending state constitutions, to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

I believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. I know that there have been many human cultures which allow a man to marry more than one wife, and a few that allowed a woman to marry more than one husband. So what? From the inception of the United States of America, our culture, politics, laws, and predominant religions have firmly held to one husband and one wife. Even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints abandoned polygamy, when faced with the United States Seventh Cavalry entering Utah Territory.

As far as two individuals of the same gender seeking to marry, I can find holes in the reasoning of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts big enough to drive a Mack truck through. Seriously. I don't know why the attorney general of Massachusetts couldn't find them. There is no basis for the twisted logic that "equal protection of the laws" entitles an individual to marry whoever or whatever s/he chooses to marry.

To start with, equal protection of the laws, a very important principle enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment, applies to individuals, not to demographic groups. It protects individuals from being treated differently because of what social or ethnic category they may be consigned to. No man has ever been denied a license to marry a woman, or vice versa, on the ground that "you are a homosexual."

That is why I will vote against the marriage amendment to my state's constitution.

Come on now, let's be serious. Do we really need a constitutional amendment to declare that the sky is blue???

Let's have a little faith in ourselves, in our communities, in our fellow-citizens. True, sometimes a constitution serves to restrain our legislators. As Mark Twain observed, "nobody's life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session." But this amendment is being eagerly proposed by our legislators. What are they trying to do , tie their own hands?

Oh, maybe they are trying to restrain our state courts. We wouldn't want another decision so utterly unsound and frivolous as the nonsense that four justices on the Massachusetts Supreme Court came up with, would we? Three out of seven justices in Massachusetts dissented from that decision – hey, has anybody actually read that ruling? It is easily available on the internet.Look it up. Now in Massachusetts, they may need to amend their constitution to set the judges straight.

There is not one justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court who has indicated the slightest intention of making such a decision. There is no sign at all that anything close to a majority of the court would even consider such a ruling. Last time anyone offered opinions, seven out of nine justices on the United States Supreme Court said that the federal constitution does NOT provide a guarantee for same-sex couples to marry.

One of the two justices who might possibly be considered to have maybe said something that might lead to such a conclusion, Sandra Day O'Connor, has since retired. Is anyone afraid that Justice Samuel Alito will be an advocate of a constitutional right for same-gender couples to marry?

So whatever is on the legislators' minds, it is not protecting the institution of marriage. What designs do they have on our life, liberty and property? I have no idea. I know that what they have asked the people to approve makes no sense.

We don't need a constitutional amendment to tell us that the sky is blue, nor to tell us that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. We also don't need a constitutional amendment to establish that, in this state, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

Marriage isn't a right, it is an institution. Some people choose to enter into it, some do not. Every person who chooses to enter into a marriage has a constitutional right to be treated, by the law and the state, in exactly the same manner as every other person who chooses to enter into a marriage. The definition of marriage can't be one thing for some people, and another thing for other people.

Nobody in our nation may be forced into a marriage (although many were in other human cultures in various centuries). Nobody has a constitutional right to redefine what marriage IS either. If "equal protection of the laws" means that I have a right to "marry" whatever I want to, that might start with a person of my own gender, but why not a right to marry my dog, my horse, a sheep, my sports car, or my computer?

We don't need a constitutional amendment. We need to have confidence that marriage, the union of one man and one woman, can be upheld with common sense and simple, rational insight – much less that it is established of God and can weather the storm of nonsense running through our court system.

The wording of this particular amendment would rule out simple, compassionate, common sense legal measures that, incidentally, would provide some consolation to people who do choose to enter into same-gender couples. They have no claim to demand that the rest of us honor or license their choices. But there is no reason they should not, by law, grant each other rights of hospital visitation, hold property in common, etc. James Watkins, a Holiness minister and gospel columnist residing in Indiana, has written eloquently on this subject.

The state doesn't have to take notice of why two or more individuals would want to make such provisions. Maybe an aging brother and sister are moving into their late parents' home together. Let individuals make their own personal arrangements. Leave marriage alone: it is what it is.

That is why I am going to vote NO on amending the Wisconsin constitution.


Anonymous said...

The proposition of letting the definition of marriage stand on its own without the intervention of democracy is idealistic and I can't honestly say I trust the definition to hold up against those who wish to change it. I wholeheartedly believe that marriage is a union specifically between a man and a woman, and I think that needs to be supported in the Constitution. 200 years ago, this wasn't necessary, because it was widely understood what marriage was, however times change and I believe we need to make a stand in morals and make a standard for America's guiding principles. I plan to vote yes for legally defining marriage, as current society constantly disregards it and wishes to alter a divine institution that has been present in the world since the beginning. I believe it needs to be defended, not merely trusted in.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Hi Anonymous, you are the first person to take this site seriously enough to respond. Thank you.

I can't agree that currently SOCIETY disregards the fundamental definition of what marriage IS. Certainly there are people with fervent hopes and good access to the media who think they can redefine it. In Wisconsin, neither the legislature nor the courts show any signs of accepting such arguments. I'm not putting my faith in constitutional amendments as the affirmation that marriage is what it is.