States' rights or federal authority over marriage?

The debate over same-sex marriage keeps roiling.

I continue to straddle the fence on whether to endorse the notion of full “marriage” for same-sex couples, even though my view of it is “evolving” toward favoring it. I do understand the reason that federal courts are tossing out states’ prohibitions against same-sex couples tying the knot, as in getting married.

The argument against the courts getting involved usually centers on states’ rights. Foes of same-sex marriage — or “marriage equality,” as proponents call it — keep harping on a misconstrued notion that since sexual orientation isn’t mentioned specifically in the U.S. Constitution that judges have no jurisdiction or legal standing to comment on these issues.

The latest such contention came from an editorial published Sunday in my local newspaper, the Amarillo Globe-News. “The 14th Amendment (read it) does not specifically mention marriage — gay or straight,” the editorial notes. OK, I then read the amendment, for the umpteenth time. Here’s part of what it says: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States …” It goes on at the end of that section to say states cannot “deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

No, the amendment doesn’t mention gay marriage. I’d bet some serious dough, however, that the founders deliberately intended to include all citizens regardless of any orientation — sexual or religious, to name just two — under the equal protection clause. Gay couples are seeking to be recognized as being equally entitled to all the rights guaranteed straight couples. That’s a fairly uncomplicated proposal. I’m quite certain the U.S. Constitution covers it nicely in that pesky 14th Amendment.

Texas’s state constitutional amendment “abridges” those rights, a federal court judge has ruled. The ruling is under appeal. Gay marriage isn’t legal in Texas, at least not yet.

This curious argument by foes of “marriage equality” that states’ rights trump the U.S. Constitution on issues not delineated by the founders doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

I’m guessing the surest way for those who oppose same-sex marriage to have the practice banned entirely in this country is to campaign for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that supersedes the 14th Amendment.

Good luck with that. A majority of Americans now favors same-sex marriage.

Me? I’m still grappling with it.

One thought on “States' rights or federal authority over marriage?”

  1. I’m puzzled as to why the government is in the marriage business in the first place. As long as it’s not infringing upon another person’s rights , what business is it of the government ? Or anyone else for that matter. Not looking for an argument, it’s just my opinion. You either believe in freedom or you don’t. Some are like the line in the Jim Croce song …”let them live in freedom, If they live like me”!

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