Re: RE: Shapes of a Wedge

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Fri May 21 2004 - 20:36:37 EDT

> I am quite opposed to Bush's proposed constitutional amendment, of
> course, for I see it as being in the grand tradition of Prohibition, the
> only amendment that specifically curtailed the rights of citizens rather
> than expanding them.

        Another amendment specifically destroyed a right of the majority of
citizens, one recognized implicitly by the constitution and affirmed just a
few years before by the US Supreme Court - the 13th Amendment, which
eliminated the right to own slaves.

        Needless to say, I am not arguing in favor of any such "right" and
am not in favor of slavery or opposed to the 13th Amendment. But this
example does bring out the fact that arguing on the basis of "rights," as
Americans so much like to do, is problematic: One person's right is another
person's wrong. Furthermore, reliance on the courts - whether of
Massachusetts or the US Supreme Court - for justice may produce unfortunate

        I am _not_ trying to draw and analogy between slavery and homosexual
marriage there but only to making the above points, so you don't need to
point out that same-sex marriage would be between consenting adults &c.
(There is a significant analogy between Dred Scott & Roe v Wade but that's
perhaps for another time.)

        Then your parallel between the 18th Amendment & the proposed one
about marriage is faulty. The 18th Amendment attempted to get rid of a
behavior which was - & is - deeply engrained in western society (& others).
The right to drink alcohol had been recognized from time immemorial. OTOH
there is no recognized right to same-sex marriage in our legal, political
and cultural traditions & never has been. One can of course argue that
there should be but the fact remains that there is no such right to be
curtailed. & you can argue for some kind of natural right to marry anybody
one wants, but I could reply that the natural definition of marriage
requires it to be between persons of the opposite sex, so that doesn't
really get us very far.

        Finally, the present legal status of marriage (pace Massachusetts)
provides equal rights to all persons - of appropriate age, sound mind &c.
Anybody can marry a person of the opposite sex who agrees to the union. I
understand & am sympathetic with the fact that that is not satisfactory for
persons of homosexual orientation. But the fact remains that they are not
being denied a right available to heterosexuals.

        Having said all that, I think that some kind of recognition of
same-sex civil unions by both state and church (though for somewhat
different reasons) should be given. But I don't think it's wise to rush
into this. Among other things, the state needs to consider whether it is
wise to regognize what are supposed to be permanent contracts for relations
whose stability ( especially for male homosexuals) is, in a statistical
sense, very uncertain. (Yes, I know of long-term homosexual partnerships &
yes, I know about the high divorce rate for heterosexuals. Neither one
changes the argument.) I don't think an amendment to the federal
constitution banning same-sex marriages is a good idea but it's
understandable that people consider that route in view of the totally
irresponsible actions of some judges who think that they're supposed to be
lawmakers. Had I had the executive authority in Massachusetts I would have
responded to the judges who legislated same-sex marriages with a paraphrase
of Andrew Jackson's "John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him
enforce it."

> At this point I AM in favor of civil unions (the Vermont solution). But I
> may yet change my mind on this.
> As for being "liberal" or "conservative" on this, I have seen several
> editorials that argue that allowing gay marriage is the CONSERVATIVE
> thing to do. One recent book that argues this is "A Place At The Table"
> by Bruce Bawer, an excellent treatise on how Americans have failed to
> understand why gay marriage would benefit society as a whole.

        Yes, one can make such a case. But again, it would be
_un_conservative to make such a decision hastily - & especially to be rushed
into it by the actions of a few judges.

Received on Fri May 21 20:36:54 2004

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