Abstract

In this article, the author argues against a federal constitutional amendment preventing states from recognizing same-sex marriages. As of now, a nationwide policy debate is underway on the merits of providing full marital recognition to gay couples. That debate is still in its infancy and is proceeding in a variety of ways, with divergent policy choices in the states. It should not be cut short by the extraordinary mechanism of a constitutional amendment that would substantially delay or permanently foreclose what may turn out to be a valuable social reform.

To summarize, the four main points the author makes are: First, a constitutional amendment is unnecessary because federal and state laws, combined with the present state of the relevant constitutional doctrines, already make court-ordered, nationwide same-sex marriage unlikely for the foreseeable future. Therefore, an amendment banning same-sex marriage is a solution in search of a problem. Second, a constitutional amendment defining marriage would be a radical intrusion on the nation's founding commitment to federalism in an area traditionally reserved for state regulation, family law. There has been no showing that federalism has been unworkable in the area of family law. Third, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage would be an unprecedented form of constitutional amendment, cutting short an ongoing national debate over what privileges and benefits, if any, ought to be conferred on same-sex couples, and preventing democratic processes from expanding individual rights. Fourth, the amendment as proposed is constitutional overkill that reaches well beyond the stated concerns of its proponents, foreclosing not just courts but also state legislatures from recognizing same-sex marriages and perhaps other forms of legal support for same-sex relationships. Whatever one thinks of same-sex marriage as a matter of policy, no person who cares about our Constitution and public policy should support this unnecessary, radical, unprecedented, and overly broad departure from the nation's traditions and history.

Publication Title

University of St. Thomas Law Journal

Publication Date

2004

Document Type

Article

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