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Poaching on the left's turf: The Marriage Amendment

By Connie Marshner
web posted May 20, 2002

The Washington Post prides itself on being the nation's "newspaper of record". Well guess what? The Post missed something big last week.

On Wednesday, May 15, 2002, the Marriage Amendment was introduced in Congress, but you would never know it from reading the next day's Post. The folks who put the Marriage Amendment together did such a good job building their coalition that the Post didn't know how to cover them.

The text, like that of all constitutional amendments, is simple: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

Translation: only opposite genders can marry. And the federal courts can't say otherwise. Once this amendment becomes law, the next time a group of citizens gets themselves organized enough to defeat a "civil unions" initiative, whether in a state legislature or by referendum, the courts can't undo it.

In other words: Even if it hasn't seemed like it lately, the people run this country, not the courts. It's called democracy. You know, representative government. Unlike judicial oligarchy, or rule by judges.

Who's against democracy?

Well, you'd be amazed. NOW called the Amendment a "cold-hearted attempt to make the U.S. Constitution explicitly anti-lesbian and gay rights." To which Matt Daniels, the President of the Alliance for Marriage replies: "Gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose. But they don't have a right to redefine marriage for our entire society."

ACLU spokesman Christopher Anders yesterday said the amendment would "wipe out every single law protecting gay and lesbian families and other unmarried couples." Last summer, when the idea of the amendment had first surfaced, the ACLU had sharpened its pencil if not its wits, and written that the amendment would "reverse the constitutional tradition of protecting, not harming, individual freedoms."

Wrong on the first count: The amendment, if enacted, would not change a single law. It provides merely that, if citizens do manage to change a civil union or domestic partnership law, the courts can not trump the legislative body. Can you understand the difference, ACLU? This amendment would actually give back to citizens the authority to change their laws. It would take some authority away from the petty nobility known as judges.

Shades of Tom Paine and Ben Franklin!

Wrong on the second count: All the amendment does is prevent people like the ACLU from hijacking the word "marriage" and applying it to any assortment of beings they want. Think of this as the anti-Humpty Dumpty amendment: Words actually do mean something, not just what Humpty-Dumpty says they do. And the word "marriage", if this amendment is enacted, will mean whatever states say it means, but not for two people of the same sex.

The amendment actually enhances the individual rights of citizens to get their voices heard through their legislatures. Now, that may be a voice the ACLU doesn't like: The standard liberal, elite route to victory in American governance and politics for the past several decades has been to go into the courts. The marriage amendment is a threat to judicial usurpation, not to individual rights.

It's obvious why the Washington Post wouldn't want to cover the Marriage Amendment for ideological reasons, but a liberal reporter also wouldn't know what to do with the coalition behind this amendment. You see, the press conference put together by the amendment's chief champion, Matt Daniels, didn't fit into the usual pigeonhole of "traditional values types."

Usually, when anything is introduced in Congress that supports traditional values, the legislation is sponsored by "the usual suspects," the press conference is held by "the usual suspects," and what is said is fairly predictable. Not so with this issue.

The sponsors of this amendment are equally Democrat and Republican, and the spokesmen at the press conference included Presiding Bishop George McKinney of the Church of God in Christ, one of the largest African-American denominations in the world, Dr. Patricia DeVeaux, Supervisor of Missions of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Dr. Jesse Miranda, head of the Alianza de Ministerios Evangelicos Nacionales.

Rev. Walter Fauntroy

One of the spokesmen was Rev. Walter Fauntroy, head of the National Black Leadership Roundtable, who got lots of space in the Washington Post back when he played a leading role in organizing Martin Luther King's 1963 March on Washington.

Then, to confound the stereotypes even more, endorsements came in from Agudath Israel, from the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and, even two Catholic cardinals (Bevilacqua of Philadelphia and George of Chicago).

What's a liberal to do when confronted with such an alliance?

Well, in a few days the homosexual militants will have regrouped and come out with their counterattack. The Left will be going after Matt Daniels with a vengeance, because he is poaching on their turf. The Left acts as if it owns African-Americans and Latinos, and wraps itself in claims of cultural diversity when it really means moral relativism.

Matt Daniels has called their bluff by assembling this impressive coalition. The Washington Post missed its chance to be the first to cover a new leader.

Connie Marshner is Director of the Center for Governance at the Free Congress Foundation.

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