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Sunday, January 06, 2013

Answers to the National Organization for Marriage’s Questions, Number 3

NOM's Question Number 3. Why do we need a constitutional amendment? “Isn’t DOMA enough?”

NOM's Answer: “Lawsuits like the one that imposed gay marriage in Massachusetts now threaten marriage in at least 12 other states so far. We need a marriage amendment to settle the issue once and for all, so we don’t have this debate in our face every day. The people get to decide what marriage means. No-end run around the rules by activist judges or grandstanding San-Francisco-style politicians.”

How many pejoratives can fit in one paragraph; let’s see: imposed, threaten, in our face, end-run, activist judges, grandstanding, San Francisco-style, politicians.  That’s eight!  This is what one needs to do when there is no good argument handy.  It’s a cousin to ad hominem attacks.

DOMA, of course, is the Defense of Marriage Act passed by Congress in 1996 that defines marriage as “the legal union of one man and one woman” for federal and inter-state recognition purposes in the United States.  NOM is rightly nervous these days since the Supreme Court will decide the constitutionality of this Act in this session.  NOM co-founder Maggie Gallagher is on record saying she thinks the Court will strike it down.  So only a constitutional amendment will keep the ban on same-sex marriage safe.

First, we need a civics lesson.  Contrary to NOM’s wishes, the people DO NOT get to decide what’s constitutional and what’s not.  Fortunately, we live in a constitutional republic, not a pure democracy.  For in a pure democracy, if 51% of the people want to cut off the heads of the other 49%, for whatever reason, it would happen.  Our Constitution forbids majority coercion of the minority and in fact was created, in no small part, to protect the rights of the minority.  So if, say, California passes a proposition that provides that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California,” the fact that the majority of voters voted yes does not mean it passes constitutional muster.  The same holds true for DOMA.  That’s why, in their view, DOMA is not enough and only a Constitutional amendment will do.

Ironically, if we were to let the people decide, as NOM would have it, the tide has turned since they wrote this answer and the majority of Americans are now in favor of same-sex marriage.  Given their favorable attitude toward LGBTs, when the Millennial generation assumes power, this will be a long forgotten era of American history.  Just as today when young people are told of Jim Crow and the struggle for Civil Rights, and they are mystified as how this could ever have been, so too will generations from now find it hard to believe that gay people couldn’t get married.

One more thing.  As you can tell, same-sex marriage is seen as a real threat to NOM and their supporters.  We will delve next into why with the look at their question and answer to number 4:  What’s the harm from same-sex marriage?

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