Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to require that a state recognize or give legal effect to marriages other than those between one man and one woman.

This amendment would not only disable the Full Faith and Credit Clause; it would prevent any state or federal judge from holding that the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause or Equal Protection Clause confers a right of homosexual marriage analogous to a right to abort a fetus. In other words, it leaves the matter to the states. This, and not the Federal Marriage Amendment, is the amendment a federalist should support.

2. Federalists are proponents of states' rights. They believe that states should be free to experiment (i.e., do as they please) in the realm of public policy. But states are composed of judiciaries as well as legislatures. What if the highest court of a state rules that its constitution requires homosexual marriage? The people of that state, by hypothesis, will not have voted on the matter, but it wasn't imposed on the state by the United States Constitution, either. What should a federalist say about this?

I believe a federalist should remain silent. The constitution of a state presumably reflects the will of the people of that state. It is the job of the state judiciary to interpret that document. If state judges interpret the document in a way that the citizenry of the state opposes, the citizens have two forms of recourse. First, they can amend their constitution to nullify what was done. Second, they can replace the judges, either by electing different ones (if judges are elected) or by electing a governor who will appoint new ones (if judges are appointed). These acts may be time-consuming, costly, and cumbersome, but they are not impossible.

Federalism is not identical to majoritarianism. These doctrines should not be conflated, even though they sometimes are. A majoritarian insists that homosexual marriage be left up to the people, acting through their elected representatives. It is not (he or she says) a matter for judges to decide. A federalist, however, remains neutral as between the legislative and the judicial branches of state government.

When we put everything together (see the previous two posts), we get the following as the federalist position on homosexual marriage:

1. Oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment and all other proposals that would prevent states (such as Massachusetts) from allowing homosexual marriage;

2. Support a constitutional amendment such as the one set out above, which prevents state or federal judges from forcing homosexual marriage on unwilling states (such as Texas); and

3. Take no position on how state-court judges interpret state constitutions. In other words, let the various state legislative and judicial processes work.

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