Decisions on gay marriage should not be left to courts

Tony Venhuizen

Tony Venhuizen

Last November, Josh and I wrote about civil unions. Since that time, gay marriage has become the hot political topic. It has clearly replaced abortion as the “social wedge issue” of 2004.

Gay marriage has emerged as a major issue because of several events in the news. In Massachusetts, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state had to grant marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. The city of San Francisco has granted thousands of marriage licenses to gays and lesbians in violation of state law. These licenses constitute a form a civil disobedience on the part of Mayor Gavin Newsom and other city officials.

President Bush responded to the issue by calling for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman. His campaign clearly plans to use the issue against Senator John Kerry, Bush’s likely November opponent from Massachusetts.

Polling has shown that two-thirds of Americans oppose gay marriage; however, only half support a constitutional amendment.

There is little chance that a constitutional amendment can muster the required two-thirds vote of the Senate and the House of Representatives; in the Senate, most Democrats and a few liberal Republicans have spoken publicly against the amendment.

Constitutional amendments are rare. Throughout American history, the constitution has only been amended 27 times.

Numerous amendments have been proposed in response to unpopular court rulings. Proposed amendments to allow for child labor laws, allow prayer in school, ban flag burning and prohibit abortion have all failed.

It seems unlikely that an amendment to define marriage would be any more successful.

But that does not mean it is a bad idea.

I have said in this column before that one of America’s great problems is activist judges who legislate from the bench. Abortion is a good example. The constitution says nothing about abortion; it is only through complex legal interpretations that a “right to choose” emerges.

The constitution should be taken to mean what it says, and nothing more. State legislatures should have the power to decide whether or not to allow abortion. The same is true with gay marriage.

Some have proposed a constitutional amendment that specifically prohibits gay marriage. I would personally prefer a “states’ rights” version that would allow each state to decide the issue for itself.

Either way, a constitutional amendment that allows the people to resolve the gay marriage issue is appropriate.

Gay marriage is an important issue; it is something that should be decided through our democratic institutions, not our dictatorial courts.

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