9 years ago: Why an amendment?

Feb. 25, 2004, on this blog: Why an amendment?

[San Francisco Mayor Gavin] Newsom highlights the contradiction embraced by those who want to argue both that same-sex marriages are not constitutional and that the Constitution must be amended in order to make such marriages illegal.

  • Foreigner

    Sounds like Andy Schalfly. The Bible is the true and inerrant Word of God, and needs to be edited to remove all the liberal propaganda in it.

  • Carstonio

    Yes. These folks are treating the Bible and the Constitution the same way. Inerrancy and originalism are simply the same ideology applied to two different documents, and both are just as interpretive as any other reading.

    It’s still not obvious what the average opponent of SSM believes  “redefining” marriage means. Not the con artists like Musgrave or NOM’s Brian Brown, but the opponents who aren’t in the public eye. The term is obviously a dog whistle, but it’s unclear exactly how this works for the intended audience. Do they fear that opposite-sex marriages will be nullified? Is the fear that gender roles in marriages won’t exist? (I’m all for doing away with the latter – husband and wife should be simply sex-specific names.) Or is this broader, where SSM is one more sign of the loss of personal characteristics privilege?

  • DoctorChimRichalds

    It’s not really a contradiction if you’re familiar with the legal world (or, really, if you think about it a bit). In the legal context specifically, you’re allowed to make inconsistent arguments and let the jury sort it out. For instance, the example we were taught was, IIRC, a wrongful death action where a semi hit a guy who was driving home from a bar. The plaintiff sued both the bar and the company, arguing, among other things, that (a) the decedent wasn’t drunk, (b) that if he was drunk, it wasn’t a contributing factor to the accident, and (c) if he was drunk and it was a contributing factor, it was because the bar overserved him. That may not be the best idea as a matter of trial strategy, but it’s actually pretty common to make inconsistent claims and then winnow them out or just let the jury sort through it all. So, in this specific context, it makes perfect sense to make arguments that may be at cross-purposes.

    And, from a more political standpoint, the viewpoint is perfectly clear: obviously same-sex marriages are unconstitutional, but we need to make an amendment to protect marriage from the Godless Lib’rul Activist “Justices” who don’t realize that This Is A Christian Nation, and so forth.

  • The_L1985

    Do they fear that opposite-sex marriages will be nullified? Is the fear that gender roles in marriages won’t exist? (I’m all for doing away with the latter – husband and wife should be simply sex-specific names.)
    Or is this broader, where SSM is one more sign of the loss of personal characteristics privilege?

    I frankly think it’s fear of losing the gender roles, combined with the loss of privilege.  The former, because when encountering gay/lesbian couples, a lot of people still ask the (kind of stupid, IMO) question, “Which one of you is the man?”  The latter, because they frame it as a “religious freedom” argument, like teaching (specifically Christian young-earth) creationism in schools or posting the 10 commandments (specifically the Protestant Christian version) in courthouses.

    I honestly don’t think any of them are still delusional enough to believe that starting man-woman marriages would become illegal, or that existing opposite-sex marriages would be nullified.  We can stop beating that horse any time; it is well and truly dead.

  • Matthias

    I don’t think there is a contradiction. It is not uncommon to believe that something is already outlawed only to realise that the people which matter (i.e. the judges) disagree. Then you have to precisise the law/constitution.

    Example: I believe that the first and the fifth amendment make slavery unconstitutional by guaranteing the right to assemble and that liberty shall not be deprived withouth due process, respectively. However, given the fact that the supreme court disagreed it became necessary to pass the 13th amendment.

  • AnonymousSam
  • Lee

    There’s nothing inconsistent, it’s just using the word “Constitutional” in two different contexts.

    It’s the difference between something being PERMITTED and something being REQUIRED. The mayor is saying that SSM is required by the constitution (or that he’s required to not discriminate), and therefore he must grant them. Opponents to marriage are saying that SSM is permitted by the constitution (but not yet passed into law), and so are trying to amend it to prohibit any law granting them.

  • http://hummingwolf.livejournal.com/ Hummingwolf

    It’s still not obvious what the average opponent of SSM believes “redefining” marriage means. … The term is obviously a dog whistle, but it’s unclear exactly how this works for the intended audience.

    Based on the one calm discussion I’ve had with a SSM opponent, “redefining” marriage just means changing the legal meaning of the term so that it can refer to something besides a one-man, one-woman marriage. Why is this bad? Because, according to the person I spoke with, marriage is the foundation of society, and changing the meaning of marriage can lead to the downfall of society in some unspecified (but clearly bad) way. The person I was talking with admitted that the meaning of marriage has, in fact, changed quite a lot down through the centuries and civilization hasn’t yet been destroyed, but was still quite sure that this particular change was the one that could destroy everything, somehow.

    Weird thing is, this person is totally in favor of civil rights for homosexuals including civil partnerships that would be treated exactly the same as opposite-sex marriage. Literally their only stated objection to making same-sex marriage legal was that the word “marriage” should not be redefined. If the state got out of the marriage business entirely and all legal partnerships–including this person’s current marriage–were referred to by some other name, they’d be okay with that, just as long as nobody redefined “marriage.”

    I do know some other SSM opponents who could probably give a detailed explanation of why they oppose it, but those folks are gender essentialists and I’d rather not get into that discussion with them because I like to keep my blood pressure down.

  • Carstonio

    Based on my own experience, it’s likely that your opponent did make some gender essentialist assumptions. I’ve heard many others describe the doom ‘n’ gloom as the alleged disconnect of marriage and procreation. These folks insist that without marriage, men would lack any reason to care for or provide for their children.

    I have the same reaction to their ideas as you do – I’ve even encountered the claim that chivalry was about men moderating their brutish impulses. And not at all about treating women as property in need of protection, no sir.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    The person I was talking with admitted that the meaning of marriage
    has, in fact, changed quite a lot down through the centuries and
    civilization hasn’t yet been destroyed, but was still quite sure that
    this particular change was the one that could destroy everything,
    somehow.

    So marriage is just like Transformers, and each change means that it is RUINED FOREVER all over again?


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