Saturday, July 10, 2004

Bush and the "sanctity of marriage"

In an earlier post (President Defends the Sanctity of Marriage) I discussed Bush's misunderstanding of the relationship between government and sanctity. In a more recent post (Orrin G. Hatch on The Federal Marriage Amendment) I discussed Orrin Hatch's apparent misunderstanding of how the system of checks and balances is supposed to work in our government. I recently found this Statement by the President from last May which combines both problems.
"The sacred institution of marriage should not be redefined by a few activist judges. All Americans have a right to be heard in this debate. I called on the Congress to pass, and to send to the states for ratification, an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of a man and a woman as husband and wife. The need for that amendment is still urgent, and I repeat that call today."
To summarize the problems:
  • "The sacred institution of marriage." The government isn't in the business of determining whether marriage is sacred. That's up to religious organizations. My beliefs about what is sacred and your beliefs about what is sacred are up to you and me. We don't need the government to tell us what to believe. That's one of the foundation stones of our form of government. The government is in the business of creating rules for civil society. That's it. It is not up to the government to determine what is and is not sacred.

  • "A few activist judges." Judges are supposed to strike down laws that abridge rights guaranteed by the constitution -- whether or not the President likes those rights. That's the way our government works. Judges are independent. Judges make decisions either alone or in small groups, i.e., "a few." We don't convene a large assembly of judges to make decisions. Mr. Bush is in the White House because of "a few" judges on the Supreme Court. That's the way the system works. Mr. Bush may disagree with the decisions of one or more judges, but it is not up to him to criticize them for doing their jobs, which is to make decisions when issues are presented to them.

  • The constitution is intended to guarantee rights, not take them away. Mr. Bush and other supporters of the ban on same-sex marriage apparently believe that the constitution currently guarantees the right of same-sex couples to marry. They fear that the judiciary, in its role of guardian or our rights, will use that constitutionally guaranteed right to "redefine marriage." Hence the need to modify the constitution to prevent them from doing so.

    If the Federal Marriage Amendment is enacted, it will be the only time other than prohibition (you remember how well that worked) that we will have modified our constitution to take rights away. Do we really want to do that?

    Even if such an amendment were passed, it would do nothing to ensure that marriage remains sacred. Nothing can do that other than religious institutions. If the President doesn't believe that our religious institutions are doing their job, then he should be preaching to them, not campaigning for a constitutional amendment.
Are Mr. Bush and his followers so insecure in their own sense of the sacred that they need a constitutional amendment to prop themselves up? Insecurity has always been one of the underlying causes of bigotry and of attempts to restrict other people's freedom. Haven't we learned that lesson yet?

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