President Bush’s annoucement yesterday that he supports a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriages just floored me.
I really struggle with this…my whole life I’ve been in awe of what the founders of the U.S. were able to accomplish with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution–two documents written with such reason and passion that they have been stable forces in our government for more than 200 years.
Take the Preamble to the Constitution, for example. “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and
establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” It takes my breath away when I think about the importance of the issues the framers of the Constitution were dealing with during its evolution. Here were people, exploring and expanding their own world horizons (albeit at the expense of American Indians), trying
to establish a workable system of government. I won’t pretend to be an expert in Am. Revolutionary War history, but just thinking about the strength and passion of the individuals to have been able to unite for a common cause is pretty extraordinary.
And then you have the Bill of Rights, modeled primarily after the Bill of Rights in the Massachussets Constitution (which itself was modeled after portions of exemplary documents in history). For me, the Constitution is about the rights of a people…to limit or govern those rights is oppressive…
And while the framers of the Constitution certainly recognized adultery as “morally repugnant,” they did not include mention of it in the Constitution–recognizing that issues such as marriage and adultery were matters for the people to deal with, not the federal government.
I’m probably not articulating myself well here (it would take me days to formulate a coherent argument), but my point is that Bush’s public assertion that he supports a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages shakes me to my core…not because a President supports a Constitutional amendment per se, but because the ban restricts the rights of individuals. The United States declared independence from the King because of the restrictions on their “basic human rights…”
(from the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence) “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Anyway, the President’s action has create a true crisis in my fundamental belief system. I do not believe that the federal government should have the ability (or the nerve!) to restrict the rights of consenting adults to enter into a legally binding contract that affords them rights and protection under the law.
I’m not speaking, nor am I trying to speak, for anyone other than myself. But my hands shake thinking about this, and I would guess that John Adams, Sam Adams, Elbridge Gerry, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and others in the nascent history of the U.S. would have strident arguments against such an amendment.
I do not believe that such an amendment to the Constitution would ever pass (two-thirds in the House and the Senate, and ratified by 3/4 of the state legislatures), but I am dismayed by the vanity of those who would propose such an amendment…
And now, because they mean so much to me, I offer you the Bill of Rights:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.