Thanks, New York Times. Sometimes, I like you a lot . . . .
February 25, 2004
Putting Bias in the Constitution
ith his re-election campaign barely started and his conservative base already demanding tribute, President Bush proposes to radically rewrite the Constitution. The amendment he announced support for yesterday could not only keep gay couples from marrying, as he maintains, but could also threaten the basic legal protections gay Americans have won in recent years. It would inject meanspiritedness and exclusion into the document embodying our highest principles and aspirations.
If Mr. Bush had been acting as a president yesterday, rather than a presidential candidate, he would have tried to guide the nation on the divisive question of what rights gay Americans have. Across the nation, elected officials and others have been weighing in on whether they believe gays should be allowed to marry, have civil unions, adopt, visit their partners in hospitals and be free from employment discrimination. Except for a throwaway line about proceeding with "kindness and good will and decency," the president's speech was a call for taking rights away from gay Americans.
President Bush's studied unwillingness to talk about the rights gay people do have is particularly significant given the wording of the Federal Marriage Amendment now pending in Congress. It calls for denying same-sex couples not only marriage, but also its "legal incidents." It could well be used to deny gay couples even economic benefits, which are now widely recognized by cities, states and corporations. Such an amendment could radically roll back the rights of millions of Americans.
In his remarks yesterday, President Bush tried to create a sense of crisis. He talked of the highest Massachusetts court's recognition of gay marriage, San Francisco officials' decision to grant marriage licenses to gay couples and a New Mexico county's doing the same thing. He did not say the New Mexico attorney general found that gay marriages violate state law, the California attorney general is asking the California Supreme Court to review San Francisco's actions, and Massachusetts is considering amending its State Constitution to prohibit gay marriage. The president, who believes so strongly in states' rights in other contexts, should let the states do their jobs and work out their marriage laws before resorting to a constitutional amendment.
The Constitution has been amended over the years to bring women, blacks and young people into fuller citizenship. President Bush's amendment would be the first adopted to stigmatize and exclude a group of Americans. Polls show that while a majority of Americans oppose gay marriage, many would prefer to allow the states to resolve the issue rather than adopting a constitutional amendment. They understand what President Bush does not: the Constitution is too important to be folded, spindled or mutilated for political gain.
Putting Bias in the Constitution: