Monday, February 07, 2005
On this day:

An Unnecessary Amendment

Saturday's editorial in the Huntsville Times made the case that a proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is "pointlessly divisive and utterly superfluous."

Look: Alabama already has a law on the books banning same-sex marriages. And in 1996, Congress passed and a Democratic president - Bill Clinton - signed a federal law stipulating that states would not be required to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

Where's the loophole? Not on the U.S. Supreme Court, which, before President Bush leaves office, will probably become the most conservative it has been in generations. And not on the Alabama Supreme Court, where conservative Republicans are firmly in control with no real threats in sight.

Under such circumstances, the existing state law ought to suffice. Even if a constitutional amendment were to pass in Alabama and the U.S. Supreme Court took a unexpected turn to the left, an amendment to the state's basic law would have no more clout before that body than an act passed by the Legislature.

I would agree with the Times that this proposed amendment is unnecessary. The Alabama Constitution may be flawed in many ways, but the the lack of a provision banning same-sex marriage is not one of them. There are already statutes on the books that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. If these statutes are inadequate, then they should be revised. The Constitution is not the appropriate place for a state to codify its marriage law.

Indeed, the Constitution is not the problem here - activist judges are the problem. Therefore, the focus should be on curbing the judiciary's growing tendency to usurp the powers of the legislative branch. There are several options for dealing with judges who seek to redefine marriage from the bench - remove their funding, remove their jurisdiction, remove them from office, or ignore their decisions. Legislatures, as the representatives of the people, must reassert their constitutional authority to make law. The proposed Constitutional amendment elevates symbolism over substance, and is inadequate to address the fundamental issues at stake.