Monday, January 01, 2007

There is nothing new under the sun

New Year's Day seems like a good time to make that observation. A churlish column by Captain Fishsticks just before Christmas got Spot to thinking about the issue he writes about today. Sticks says:
Given its druthers, the DFL-controlled Legislature would prefer to bury the debate along with the proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage, which the DFL buried in Senate committee last session. I oppose the amendment. But for the DFL to kill the debate without questioning the wisdom of the current Minnesota law banning same-sex marriage may be, for same-sex couples, "the unkindest cut of all."
Why yes, Sticks, you are wrong and it is partisan and cynical of you: your self-diagnosis is correct.

In a candid moment, even Sticks allows that he understands the difference between a constitutional provision and and a law:
As a matter of law, there is a degree of difference between an amendment banning same-sex marriage and a law banning same-sex marriage — although it may not seem that way to same-sex couples that can't marry in either case. Remember, it is the DFL making that distinction, and the DFL is an honorable party. [emphasis by Spot]
Sticks can be sarcastic, too, can't he boys and girls? Now it must be remembered that Sticks supported Michele Bachmann in her bid for Congress. She was, of course, one of the sponsors of the Bachmann constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and civil unions while she was in the Minnesota Legislature. It is her bill that was "buried in a Senate committee" as Sticks says. You got a lot of damn gall, Sticks, commenting on the courage of the DFL from the perch you roost on.

Conservatives, including Bachmann, revved up in advance of the last session of the legislature to get the Bachmann bill passed and the issue on the ballot for the November election. The DFL blocked it, but it came at a price--the Majority Leader of the Senate, Dean Johnson.

Gay marriage, along with abortion and prayer in school, are reliable issues to get the more pious members of the Republican party out to the polls. And it has become a dangerous issue for a lot of politicians.

Spotty, what does this all have to do with nothing new under the sun?

What? Oh yes. Spot almost forgot! There is at least one other issue that has followed the same trajectory in American history: miscegenation.

There was a time early in the 20th century when an anti-miscegenation amendment to the US constitution was proposed. It's genesis was perhaps in large part with the heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson's marriages and affairs with white women. Of course, it was not until Loving v. Virginia in 1967 that the Supreme Court said that all remaining anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional.

And surprise, surprise, surprise: a lot of the arguments against miscegenation were religious, just as the case of gay marriage! I know that's a shock, boys and girls. Here's what the trial court in Loving v. Virginia [see the link above] said in upholding the Virginia anti-miscegenation law ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court:

"Almighty God created the races, white, black, yellow, Malay, and red and placed them on separate continents, and but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend the races to mix."

- Judge Bazile, Caroline County, VA, 1965.
The tide is turning against the anti-gay marriage crowd, and it knows it. That's why, just like the anti-miscegenationists, it is trying to put the issue as far beyond reach as possible with a constitutional amendment, both in the states and at the federal level. Matt Yglesias from, via The Liberal Coalition, said this:
There's nothing remotely democratic about a constitutional amendment barring state legislatures from allowing gay and lesbian couples to get married. What's really going on here is that conservatives know they're losing this fight. Gay marriage remains unpopular, but on all other fronts support for gay rights has been growing strongly in recent years. Meanwhile, young people are far more supportive of gay marriage than are our elders, putting time firmly on the side of the left. A constitutional amendment today, however, would lock the public opinion of 2004 in stone for decades to come, as amendments are incredibly hard to repeal. If you'd passed a Federal Anti-Miscegenation Amendment back in 1956, interracial unions might still be illegal today.
So the DFL's standing up to this wedge issue on a constitutional level makes it orders of magnitude easier to get rid of the existing DOMA law in Minnesota--in time. That's bound to make a lot of activists unhappy, but Sticks' column is misinformed, or perhaps misleading, and rude.

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