Wednesday, September 29

FWD: Marriage Amendment - The Liberty Committee

September 28, 2004

"Federalism means that, unless the Constitution says otherwise, states are sovereign. This pertains to marriage. Period." (Bob Barr, March 30, 2004)

Former Congressman Bob Barr (R-Georgia) urges conservatives to leave marriage to the states. In a commentary published by The Washington Post on August 21, 2003, Mr. Barr states, "Marriage is a quintessential state issue. The Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] goes as far as is necessary in codifying the federal legal status and parameters of marriage. A constitutional amendment is both unnecessary and needlessly intrusive and punitive." He continues, "Make no mistake, I do not support same-sex marriages. But I also am a firm believer that the Constitution is no place for forcing social policies on states, especially in this case, where states have the latitude to do as their citizens see fit."

Mr. Barr agrees with Vice President Dick Cheney that marriage should not be defined by the U.S. Constitution. Mr. Barr states, "As an institution, and as a word, marriage has very specific meanings, which must be left up to states and churches to decide. The federal government can set down a baseline -- already in place with the Defense of Marriage Act -- but states' rights demand that the specific boundaries of marriage, in terms of who can participate in it, be left up to the states.

"This also means that no state can impose its view of marriage on any other state. That is the federal law already on the books [DOMA]. I drafted it, and it has never been challenged in court."

Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) endorses the Defense of Marriage Act signed into law in 1996, and warns against defining marriage by amending the U.S. Constitution. In his March 1, 2004 "Texas Straight Talk" Dr. Paul wrote, "...the Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, explicitly authorizes states to refuse to recognize gay marriages performed in other states. ... So a constitutional amendment is not necessary to address the issue of gay marriage, and will only drive yet another nail into the coffin of federalism."

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) also warns against defining marriage by an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. On July 13, 2003, Senator McCain stated on the Senate floor: "The legal definition of marriage has always been left to the states to decide, in accordance with the prevailing standards of their neighborhoods and communities. ... The Defense of Marriage Act represents the quintessentially federalist and Republican approach to this issue."

Senator McCain ended his floor statement, "I refer to Federalist Paper 45 to explain my vote, in which James Madison wrote 'the powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people, and in the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State.' I stand with Mr. Madison on this question, and against the Federal marriage amendment that denies the States their traditional right and their clear opportunity to resolve this controversy themselves."

John Hanes, chairman of the Wyoming Senate Judiciary Committee, on March 30, 2004 before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary stated, "Part of the majesty of the U.S. Constitution is that is allows the states to make their own decisions on issues that are closest to the people. For this reason, I urge you to refrain from amending the Constitution to have the federal government disrupt the ability of the states to decide such an important issue without interference from Washington."

In today's Wall Street Journal, Congressman Christopher Cox (R-California) opposes the proposed federal marriage amendment. He writes, "In 1996, Congress took a better approach when it passed the Defense of Marriage Act. This Republican legislation, signed by President Clinton, unambiguously defines marriage for all federal purposes as 'only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.' It covers every area of federal law, including immigration, employee and health benefits, taxes, and Social Security, and prevents a state such as Massachusetts from exporting marriage law. For all other purposes, it wisely leaves family law, including the definition of marriage, to the states -- and for good reason."

Dale Carpenter of the Cato Institute recently wrote, "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." And as syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg, who is against same-sex marriage, wrote in November of 2003: "You can't favor federalism for only good ideas or ideas you like."

Mr. Bob Barr and Dr. Ron Paul encourage people who believe in our constitutional republic and who believe in the traditional definition of marriage to apply their time and energy in their home states.

As Mr. Barr recently stated, "As conservatives, we should be committed to the idea that people should, apart from collective needs such as national defense, be free to govern themselves as they see fit. State and local governments provide the easiest and most representative avenue to this ideal. Additionally, by diffusing power across the federal and state governments, we provide impersonal checks and balances that mitigate against the abuse of power.

"To be clear, I oppose any marriage save that between one man and one woman. And, I would do all in my power to ensure that such a formulation is the only one operative in my home state of Georgia. However, do I think that I can tell Alaska how to govern itself on this issue? Or California? No, I cannot. Those states are free to make their own decisions, even if they are decisions I would characterize as bad."

We oppose passage of the proposed federal marriage amendment that the U.S. House will consider this Thursday afternoon.

To send a message to your U.S.representative, go to


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