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2.24.2004

DOMA and FMA 

The offical transcript of President Bush's proposal for a Federal Marriage Amendment is here.

Same-sex marriages in Massachusetts are a foregone conclusion by now. (The same-sex marriages in California are, as far as I can tell, a formal stunt that will not hold up in the California courts.) Article IV of the Constitution does seem to indicate that a same-sex marriage in Massachusetts must be honored in the other states.

Marriage is a public concern for two reasons: first, because marriage confers various social benefits and privileges upon the married couple; second, because it amounts to a formal state sanction of the relationship. So all this chatter about "equal rights" being denied to gay couples is meaningless -- the people in the various states are free to celebrate or not to celebrate whichever relationships they want.

That being said, I don't understand why it's necessary that marriage be "defined as the union of a man and a woman" in the Constitution. Although civil unions may confer the same material benefits as legal marriages, gay activists are just going to get hacked off by this sort of separate-but-equal treatment, and it seems quite possible that there may be enough pro-gay-marriage legislators or delegates in enough states to shoot down the amendment.

It seems that the essential point is to prevent gay couples from flying to Massachusetts, getting married there, and taking their home states to court to enforce recognition of their marriages. If this is the case, why not just draft an amendment that nullifies the full faith and credit clause with respect to marriage? Some states will permit gay marriage, others won't, and there won't be any nonsense about "civil unions". What's so terrible about that?

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