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playing around

By Diogenes (articles ) | Nov 04, 2008

"I am not in favor of gay marriage," Senator Barack Obama told an MTV audience on November 2. "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman."

Good. So you'd support Proposition 8 in California, which defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman; right?

Wrong. "I think it's  unnecessary," said the Democratic contender.

That's just demonstrably wrong. It is necessary to define marriage, because people disagree about the meaning of the word. A Harvard Law Review editor should understand that the meaning of terms matters. The real question is how marriage should be defined. And Obama tacitly conceded that in his MTV appearance.He explained that "when you start playing around with constitutions, just to prohibit somebody who cares about another person, it just seems to me that's not what America's about." OK, let's unpack that statement.

First, Proposition 8 does not prohibit anyone from caring about anyone else. You can care about your mother, father, spouse, brother, sister, paramour, or family pet as much as your heart allows, before or after the passage of this voter initiative. The question is whether you can identify your love as marital, and claim the legal privileges pertaining thereto.

But the more important point involves "playing around with constitutions." Until this year, all but a few Californians would have agreed (if they had ever thought about it) that their state recognized marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. Then suddenly a bare majority of the state's supreme-court justices discovered in the state's constitution-- not in the text, mind you, but in the ether wafting over the paper-- a new definition of marriage. If anyone was "playing around" with the constitution, it was those judges. The majority of Californians appear to disagree with the judges' findings. Do they have any access to redress? Should they?

Suppose, a few months from now, the same inventive California justices discovered a new principle embedded in their state constitution: a right for any homeless citizen to take up residence in a spare bedroom of the White House. Suppose further that a group of California citizens promoted a petition to overturn that foolish ruling. Which side of that political battle do you suppose would be favored by the occupant of the White House, and which would be accused of "playing around with constitutions?"

 

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