Damn the Supreme Court. The nerve of them suggesting that DOMA is unconstitutional.
On NBC’s Meet the Press with David Gregory, we’ll hear Congressman Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) discuss his move to a constitutional amendment to revive the defunct Defense of Marriage Act.
Huelskamp’s proposed DOMA Amendment – probably personally satisfying for him – is a rather shortsighted, emotional response that can have some devastating consequences for his party come November 2014. If the proposed amendment gets any traction, and if we’re lucky.
Article V of the Constitution provides authority to amend the document. An amendment is formally proposed under two circumstances, neither of which is about to happen: achieving a 2/3 majority in the House and in the Senate on a joint resolution, or by way of a Constitutional Convention called for 2/3 of the State legislatures that, by the way, have never happened (only God knows the necessary majorities to get a State legislature to join in a call for a Constitutional Convention). That’s just the beginning.
Then, 38 of the 50 state legislatures have to ratify the proposed amendment.
The first ten amendments to the Constitution were proposed on September 25, 1789 and enacted December 15, 1791. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery; the 16th Amendment established a Federal Income Tax; the 18th Amendment prohibited alcohol, and the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th; the 22nd Amendment limited the presidency for any one individual to two terms (the question of whether or not one could serve a third non-consecutive term has not been tested), and the 26th Amendment gave the right to vote to those 18 years old and older (since they were dying in Vietnam, anyway).
The only precedent that begins to creep towards – but remains light years away from – anything like a constitutional amendment dictating marriage rights would be the 18th’s prohibition of alcohol, and that was shortly repealed about 13 years later. The similarity begins and ends with the question of the government attempting to dictate personal moral choices that have no effect on others (unlike, for instance, slavery, which was an immoral choice that had profound effects on others).
All of which is to say that, of course, at best Huelskamp is wasting everyone’s time (and money) in even proposing a DOMA amendment. It will never pass, especially since it contradicts pretty much everything the Constitution represents idealistically – that is, the protection of fundamental rights that even a majority of people cannot choose to withhold, such as freedom from slavery and women’s suffrage) and, less sentimentally, from a simple practical point of view: the proposed DOMA amendment will never come close to the House and Senate majorities required, and even if it did, we would never achieve ratification by 38 state legislatures (13 states already support same-sex marriage by state law, which means they’ve already missed out on the 38 state requirement).
So, why do it? For Huelskamp and other like-minded politicians, the proposal is a gesture, as weak as it may be. But, really, that’s fine – I don’t imagine we’ve ever seen acknowledgment of some inalienable rights of some group of people when a vocal group of opponents struggled to maintain the status quo. Indeed, we are still struggling with the effects of racism, and racists still dream of a time when we’ll finally put all those other than white back in their place.
Interestingly, Huelskamp is father of four adopted kids who, thankfully, are probably enjoying opportunities for success that they might not otherwise have enjoyed, save but for their adoption. One would think that Huelskamp’s unique perspective, then, would welcome the opportunity to place even more kids in loving homes where they, too, can have chances they otherwise would not have. Anyway. Some, I suppose, would rather see kids raised in erratic foster homes than enjoy some stability and predictability in their lives at the hands of a loving, professional gay couple.
More to the point: if one takes a quick look at the number of years it takes to finally enact a successfully proposed amendment, one finds it can take a year, usually more, which will bring us to the 2014 congressional elections, during which all 435 seats in the House, and 33 of the seats in the Senate will be up for grabs (not to mention 38 state governorships, 46 state legislatures).
So, at worst (if you’re a Republican) aside from really wasting time and money, Huelskamp, a junior representative, is committing political suicide (who cares) while threatening to take a good number of his republican colleagues with him.
We’ll see how many candidates are willing to go out on a limb with Huelskamp in the 2014 congressional elections – something of a referendum on the issue in itself. I doubt too many Republicans (and probably no Democrats) are willing to strongly and vocally associate themselves with a DOMA amendment as they seek reelection. If that becomes a focal point of their campaign, they’re done. Put a fork in ‘em.
There are too many other legitimate, potentially productive issues, with which they can associate themselves and win back – or win – their seats in the Congress.
But, hey, that’s freedom. It’s always a fight.