Marriage diktat

Sunday, November 23, 2003

So four liberal judges in the only state liberal enough to vote for George McGovern 31 years ago can work a constitutional, social and cultural revolution on all of America.

This is the practical meaning of last week's 4-3 vote by the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, effectively commanding the elected representatives of the people to do something no elected body anywhere in America has: Legalize marriages between people of the same sex.

For good measure, the four judges gave the state legislature 180 days to fall into line behind this judicial diktat.

(That the imperial judiciary would graciously grant lawmakers a mere 180 days to fall into line becomes interesting when one learns that in Massachusetts it takes two legislative sessions, stretching over most of two years, to amend the state constitution. Obviously, a constitutional amendment defining marriage as consisting of a union of one man with one woman is one proper response, commanding as it does majority support even there, but such can't be accomplished within the time frame the judges have specified.)

A clearer, more vivid illustration of judicial activism, and stunning overreach by arrogant judges, can hardly be imagined.

Can it really be the case that one of our great national political parties wants to fight it out on this line over the next 11 months, leading up to the national election of Nov. 2? We are about to learn the answer.

I know the answer given by the elected representatives of the people in Missouri and every other state whose lawmakers have officially replied on the question.

With next to no dissent, since the mid-1990s we have on several occasions passed defense-of-marriage bills and seen them signed into law by a Democratic governor.

Lawmakers in dozens of other states have acted similarly. And so have the elected representatives we send to Washington who sent a federal Defense of Marriage Act to the desk of President Clinton, who affixed his signature.

Consider the implications and the scenario all-but-certain to unfold out of Massachusetts.

The U.S. Constitution contains a "full faith and credit" clause requiring each of the states to grant "full faith and credit" to the legal decisions and official acts of all the other states. This means that a marriage license granted by Idaho is honored in Florida and all the other states.

The implications of "full faith and credit" for recognition by other states of the coming Massachusetts same-sex marriages are equally clear.

In less than six months, same-sex couples wishing to be united in matrimony will flock from every state to Massachusetts, seeking to marry there.

The national news media will take a break from all-Michael-Jackson-all-the-time to give lots of coverage to the marriages, and the jubilant return of these couples to their homes in the other 49.

And the people will get the point. There is one party in America that works to bring about such results, cheering on the courts to work, overnight, these revolutions on our body politic, and then shielding judges from criticism when they do.

Joined by its echo chambers among the chattering classes in the national news media, the national Democratic Party repeatedly cheers on the courts to enact a radical agenda that can't legitimately be found in the Constitution, and that no legislative body -- even in our most liberal states -- will enact.

All this is quite ironic. The last 20 years have seen a remarkable moderation in public attitudes toward homosexuality.

A broadening consensus means that today, most Americans embrace attitudes of love, tolerance and live-and-let-live.

But the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has just acted in a way certain to make clear, even to disengaged citizens, exactly what our judicial nomination fights are about, both statewide and nationally.

Well, what about it? Are we a self-governing people, or aren't we?

Given the determination of the other side, married to their smug air of moral superiority, such a series of confrontations was inevitable, with the only question being when.

Once again, they picked the fight, and the timing.

In this one, though, it is you the people who will have the last say.

Peter Kinder is assistant to the chairman of Rust Communications and president pro tem of the Missouri Senate.

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