|Politics of marriage
Currently there is a proposed amendment to the federal constitution that would ban same-sex marriage. It is also vague enough that it could be used to ban unions. Mr. Bush has supported this amendment. Fortunately, a survey of the Senate (in 2004) finds that it would probably only get about 45 of the needed 67 votes. It would also need approval by 2/3 of the House, and 3/4 of the states. As governor of Texas, Mr. Bush supported keeping same-sex relationships illegal. Also, it is clear that Mr. Bush is likely to appoint justices hostile to gay rights. (His claimed pre-election support for civil unions, not with standing)
There is a proposed amendment to the Massachusetts state constitution that bans marriage but guarantees unions. I beleive the only difference between unions and marriages here is the word "marriage", and that is really a symbolic issue, or a separation of church and state issue, not a same-sex legal rights issue. I also believe, for a number of reasons, it is the right strategic approach here. The likely course of events in Massachusetts is this - marriages will begin in May 2004. In 2006 there may be a popular vote on the amendment, which would call them unions instead of marriages. Then in 2008, an amendment that would ban unions and marriages altogether, based on signatures, and proposed by right wing groups, will get a popular vote. Since the 2008 vote can not likely be prevented, I believe it is best to have the 2006 vote first. Also, since legal rights are important for the gay community, and since the word marriage is the most important thing for the right, and since unions have popular support, and marriages do not, this is also a reasonable compromise in today's environment.
New proposed federal amendment - updated 3/23/2004
The old amendment read, "Neither the U.S. nor any state constitution or any state or federal law shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman." The revised proposal deletes the reference to state and federal laws.
This amendment is still problematic.
1) It tries to remove the courts from the process completely, and I believe that the courts have an important role in protecting the rights of minority groups.
2) It still fails to clearly separate marriages and civil unions, and could be used to prevent both.
3) It could prevent the federal recognition of civil unions or marriages performed by the states. The current DoMA law, at least as it applies to the federal government, could be found unconstitutional. This amendment would prevent the supreme court from striking down that part of the DoMA law.
4) The amendment would also take away both civil unions and/or marriages in Massachusetts whether they are supported by state courts or by state constitutional amendment.
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