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Ask Auntie Pinko

July 15, 2004

Dear Auntie Pinko,

I am fifty-two years old, have been married for thirty years, and I have three children. They are all grown up and self-supporting, and two of them are married. I really love my husband, and we're looking forward to retiring together if we can ever save enough money to stop working. In fact, being married to my husband is one of the most important things in my life.

I know that being married to their spouses is really important to my daughter and son, too. Now I'm all confused and worried. Are my marriage and my children's marriages in danger from all those married gay people in Massachusetts? What are they going to do to us? Will they find a way to make us get divorced? Will they find a way to keep my youngest daughter from getting married at all? Should I tell my Senator to support the Constitutional amendment to protect our marriages?

Olathe, KS

Dear Carla,

Auntie Pinko is going to assume that you are being facetious, here, and that you are well aware that there is nothing that "'married gay people" can do to make you or your children get divorced, or to prevent your daughter from getting married if she and another person want to get married. While I don't share the fears of those who believe that gay marriage somehow devalues their whole concept of marriage, I won't doubt the sincerity of their beliefs or the pain that they feel from this threat.

On the other hand, neither can I deny the pain that gay couples endure because they have no access to the basic rights afforded by legal recognition of their deep commitment to one another's love and well-being. I've made no secret of my opinion that it's in the best interests of communities to foster the creation of committed relationships that make adults mutually responsible for each others' welfare and the welfare of their children. Indeed, the more steps the state can take to support such arrangements, the better.

But while I oppose the efforts of my fellow-citizens to restrict such support to heterosexual couples, I fully support their right to try and bring the law into conformity with their beliefs. That fundamental right belongs to every citizen of America, whether I share their beliefs or not. If they want to try and get a law passed to keep gay people from getting married, they should be allowed to make that attempt, even as I should be allowed to try and keep such a law from being passed. Political self-determination makes America great.

There is one thing that does concern me, though - and that is that they are attempting to achieve their goals by adding this prohibition to the Constitution. The last time America bought into the notion that it was a good idea to enshrine "moral standards" into the Constitution, the lesson was extremely expensive. We ended up repealing it, and the echoes of its legacy in organized crime still haunt us.

Now, Auntie doesn't believe that there will suddenly be a criminal traffic in "bootleg" gay marriages if the Constitution prohibits them, with the associated empowerment of a criminal underworld of gay marriage enablers and scofflaws. The direct negative effects would certainly be more subtle than that. I do believe there would still be negative effects - and ultimately profound ones - if we set the precedent that our Constitution can be used to prevent certain classes of people from trying to gain their idea of equal rights.

In fact, I oppose the attempt to make the Constitution do anything except the two things that it was originally designed to do:

  • Restrict the government from infringing on certain fundamental rights of citizens to do all that is necessary to govern themselves; and

  • Ensure the equal access of all citizens to legal redress, and participation in self-government.

That's it. That's what the Constitution is for, in Auntie's opinion. Everything else is up for grabs under our system of self-government. The only time the Constitution should ever be amended is when it becomes clear that those two basic requirements of self-government are being impeded or denied under the rule of law as it stands. And the more we trivialize the gravity of that Constitutional purpose by using it as a moral nanny to guide "correct behavior," the less it will mean. And ultimately, that could diminish its power to protect us in the areas that are most important.

And I cannot help but feel irritated by the waste of important resources - the time and attention of our Senate, the infrastructure that sustains their deliberative process, and the tax dollars that pay for them - for such a clearly inappropriate purpose. Would it be a waste of time for them to discuss such an issue if it were a simple matter of passing a law? No. That's a legitimate function of the legislative branch - to examine the feasibility of citizens' will in such matters, and test whether it has sufficient support to become law.

Auntie Pinko strongly suspects, however, that those who support this Constitutional amendment have bypassed the legislative process because they know perfectly well that such a law would never pass the test of our Constitution as it stands. Their attempt to bypass that process, however, would result in the subversion of our Constitution's basic purpose - a far greater harm to American freedom than certain states' recognition of the committed partnerships of gay couples. Thanks for asking Auntie Pinko, Carla!

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