Ross Elliot's picture
Submitted by Ross Elliot on Mon, 2006-06-26 00:02

[reprised from SOLOHQ]

"Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the Constitution of any State or Federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

And so says the recently [2004] submitted proposed amendment to the federal Constitution of the United States of America.

Proponents of the amendment see it as the best way to protect the historical and religious significance of the legal union between a man and a woman, while others denounce it as discriminatory and blatant gay-bashing.

Who’s right? Answer: it doesn’t matter. The arguments are irrelevant. This isn’t about gay-bashing. It’s worse. This is constitution-bashing.

The sole function of a constitution is to specifically define and therefore limit the powers of the state. It is not to tell individuals how they must live. It is to protect the freedom of individuals by restraining the activities of government. Individuals have rights and prerogatives, the state has only clearly delineated functions.

And so:

  • The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year…
  • The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended…
  • The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States…

A wonderful thing, the written restraint of power. But, even better, the clear enumeration of rights.


  • …the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
  • The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…
  • Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted

And, just to ram it home, in case the sons of the fathers forget what the hell it was all about in the first place:

  • 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.

And so the state is placed in bondage. Nicely shackled. A thing well done.

But, sometimes, the sons did forget what the fathers taught them:

  • The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes…

That one has enabled the state to grow into a suffocating behemoth.

  • …the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors… is hereby prohibited

That one let loose a wave of organised-crime & violence, and was repealed, a failed experiment, a decade later.

The lesson is clear. When a constitution functions as it should and limits authority it enhances the liberty and prosperity of all; when it seeks to restrain and penalise individuals it turns them into subjects and criminals.

The proposed marriage amendment is, at the worst, setting a bad precedent, and at the least it is silly, worthless and a waste of time and effort. It certainly trivialises the intent of a great document and exemplifies the outlandish politicisation of everyday life.

Individuals are best able to determine their own emotional, physical and legal arrangements. And that is all a marriage is: a special relationship, as determined and defined by the persons involved, that is entered into voluntarily. If any disputes subsequently arise, then as a matter of common law, the courts can make judgements.

There is no need for any government to define or clarify what marriage is just as there is no need for it to define what constitutes a sports club, an orchestral group, a religious organisation or any other voluntary association of individuals.

The proposed amendment should go the same way as the recently proposed flag burning amendment—in the bin. Furthermore, it’s sponsors should be told to go away, stop wasting everyone’s time, read some Jefferson, Madison, et al, and learn what a constitution is properly about.

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True, but for eloquence, the

Ross Elliot's picture

True, but for eloquence, the Constitution pales beside the Declaration Smiling

This reminds me...

Olivia's picture

The Constitution is such a wonderful example (like Ayn's writing) of complex, important ideas put so precisely and cleanly into concrete form.

That one written document, which had the power to give rise to such a unique and strong civilization, never ceases to fill me with a sense of reverence at the utter creativity of it.

It should be set in stone and emblazoned on the sky!!

Excellent article Ross Smiling

This is excellent...

jtgagnon's picture

Great piece. I couldn't agree more.

"Better to fight for something than live for nothing."


MJ's picture

I was unfamiliar with your article when I linked to the Lerner article. Yours is much better.

Too true, Ross!

atlascott's picture

Too true, Ross!

But when you have legislators who see the Constitution as their plaything, rather than a sacred, un believably important document, they will begin to think that putting their personal imprint upon it is somehow noble or historic.  Ugh.Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum sonatur.k

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