This past Wednesday, the proposed gay marriage amendment went down in flames in the Senate, falling shy of passage by twelve votes. Along with the majority of Democrats, six Republicans voted against it.
I’m relieved that the measure got defeated. We didn’t need to amend the Constitution to attempt to settle this decisive issue.
Now don’t get me wrong. I still think gay marriage is an assault on tradition and family values (if I may dare to use a phrase that inspires such strong cynicism). It’s a belittling of the social contract that binds society together. As has been made abundantly clear, these days, anything – anything – goes.
But two considerations were at the forefront of my thought on the amendment proposal:
The reactionary reaction
Although I believe ardently that Bush did not start this latest cultural battle, he chose a reactionary method in an attempt deal with it. A Constitutional amendment barring gay marriage was as much a sham as the prospect of gay marriage itself.
Solidifying the conservative base?
The anti-gay marriage amendment was Bush’s passion because he sought an issue to garner support from a bewildered and angst-ridden conservative base justifiably upset over his spendthrift ways, not to mention the anti-war faction of conservatives.
Now then … What does it say about said conservative base – and the GOP – to back the idea of amending the Constitution to fight what was, in large part and in due course, inevitable anyway? Conservatives who supported the proposed amendment either did not know or ignored history. Prohibition, anyone?
As surely as a Constitutional Amendment did not stop drinking or drunkenness during the early 20th century, the gay marriage amendment would not have halted the slide toward social anarchy. The problem, as Bush and conservatives have pointed out, is the power that federal judges arbitrarily wield. That being the issue at hand, why not just hand the whole mess over to the states to decide? And if state supreme court justices enact gay marriage, as in Massachusetts – the test case for this whole sorry debacle – let the battle for tradition be waged in those states in question.
Many conservatives were, quite rightly, reluctant to provide no basis for the states to settle the issue themselves. Even some Democrats – who mostly opposed the amendment for social standing among their liberal base – saw it that way in their opposition. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, for instance.
“In South Dakota, we’ve never had a single same sex marriage and we won’t have any,” he said. “It’s prohibited by South Dakota law as it is now in thirty-eight other states. There is no confusion. There is no ambiguity.” Though it pains me greatly to admit it, Daschle was absolutely correct when he opined that there was no “urgent need” for a constitutional amendment.
The amendment was reactionary spin which only stood to damage the image of conservatives and the Republican Party greatly more than it would ever enforce traditional values. Good riddance to it.