Monday, June 05, 2006

We Should Know Better

The stakes may not have been as high as they are in today's gay marriage debate, but we have been through this before.

Amendment 18 to the U.S. Constitution
Ratified January 16, 1919
1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

Amendment 21 to the U.S. Constitution
Ratified December 5, 1933
1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Despite the fact that President Bush regards the U.S. Constitution as a mere piece of paper, it is a piece of paper that has deeply affected our lives. Most people regard it is a paragon of our American ideals. I regard it as proof of a flawed but great nation striving to better itself. Every amendment has served to increase the rights of the American people, with the exception of the 18th. Prohibition was, of course, the first time the Constitution had been used to limit rights.

The Temperance Movement was not dissimilar to the marriage equality debate of today. It was one of the number one political issues of the 19th Century, and the debate was imbued with religious overtones. It was a debate over morality, as today's debate pretends to be.

But there is a key difference. The Temperance Movement was ideological, but it was also based on real concerns, primarily the welfare of women whose husbands drank their paychecks, abused them, or both. Perhaps Prohibition was "a noble experiment" that simply took a very wrong approach.

But does anyone really believe that Congressional Republicans give a damn about who marries whom? We certainly know that many of them hold no regard for the "sanctity of marriage" in their own lives. No, this debate is characterized by one side, supporting marriage equality, with noble and clear intentions and their opponents who are making transparent overtures to right wingers in an attempt to save their Congressional seats on November 7th.

Fortunately, this is all bluster, and the amendment has almost zero chance of passing. When the Constitution was first used to limit rights, the country came to its senses after a short time. Fortunately, this new amendment has little chance of passing. It would be a shame if fifteen years down the road, we had to fix yet another Constitutional error.


Blogger Vivian J. Paige said...

But what of the Virginia amendment? Look at how long it took the Commonwealth to do away with its miscenegation laws. Will we be waiting 40 years for a correction of that?

There was money related to the temperance movement. Nobody's going to get rich by prohibiting gay marriage.

6/05/2006 6:57 PM  

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