Monday, June 05, 2006

Harry Reid’s Response to the Marriage Amendment

This is pretty good.

In spite of the many serious problems we have just discussed, what is the United States Senate going to debate this week?

A new energy policy? NO.

Will we debate the raging war in Iraq? NO.

Will we address our staggering national debt? NO.

Will we address the seriousness of global warming – NO

Will we address the aging of America? NO.

Will we address America’s education dilemma? NO.

Will we address rising crime statistics? NO.

Will we debate our county’s trade imbalance? NO.

Will we debate Stem Cell Research? NO.

But what we will spend most of the week on is a constitutional amendment that will fail by a large margin, a constitutional amendment on Same Sex Marriage—an effort that failed to pick up a simple majority, when we recently voted on it.
This is not so good
I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. I believe in our federal system of government, described to me in college as a central whole divided among self governing parts. Those self governing parts—the 50 states—have already decided this on their own in state after state. For example, in Nevada the constitution was amended to prevent same sex marriage. Congress and President Clinton passed a law that gave the states the guarantee that their individual laws regarding marriage would be respected. The Defense of Marriage Act creates an exception to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution so that no state can force its laws of marriage on another.
This is a little better.
So why are we being directed by the President and this Republican majority to debate an Amendment to the Constitution, a document inspired more than two centuries ago? Why would we be asked to change this American masterpiece?

Will it next be to constitutionally dictate the cause of divorce, or military service, or even what America’s religion must be?
So I give Reid a mixed report card for his response to the President’s push for an amendment to define marriage, but I am in his debt for nicely outlining three levels (reflected in the three passages I quote above) on which we should consider this issue. I will briefly touch on each level and most likely circle back to them throughout the week.

On one level, this is a pragmatic issue, as Reid nicely articulates. With so many pressing national concerns—Reid names the War in Iraq, the impending energy crisis, national debt, and education among others—it is a waste of Congress's time to spend a week debating a constitutional amendment that is bound to fail.

On another level, this is a question of values. Conservative America dislikes homosexuality. Period. Laws and politics aside, some people believe gay couples should be treated just like straight couples, some people believe they should be treated differently. Unfortunately, Reid comes out on the wrong side of this issue, at least as far as progressive should be concerned. He shows no willingness to defend gay men and women's right to marriage.

And on another level, this is about preserving the integrity of our constitution. The United States has been relatively stable since its inception not because of an endless stem of stellar executives and lawmakers, but because our constitution serves as a bulwark against self-serving politicians and capricious voters. The Founders made it difficult to amend the constitution to prevent short-sighted attacks of this kind from succeeding, and the marriage amendment will surely fail. But Bush and the Republican backers of the marriage amendment are setting a dangerous precedent by threatening to tamper with the foundation of our democracy to promote a political agenda.