While Nation Burns, Congress Fiddles With Marriage
With gas prices and the budget soaring, immigration bringing hundreds of thousands of people to the streets, the war in Iraq shaky and vital questions unanswered about the Administration's role in domestic surveillance, our Congress Thursday naturally focused on an issue that is more about symbolism than substance.
The Senate Judiciary Committe Thursday voted along party lines to send to the full Senate a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The move came a few days after a Georgia judge threw out a state initiative that banned same-sex unions because of a problem with the way the ballot was written.
The Committee's actions curiously wasn't big news either in Washington or in New York. My national edition of the New York Times had a wire report on page A21 and the Washington Post put it on page 3. That's because experienced political reporters and editors know that the amendment has no chance of passing with the two-thirds majority it needs in the Senate and dead-on-arrival legislation typically doesn't make good copy.
And even if the amendment somehow miraculously passed through Congress and the states it is not at all clear that such a change to the Constitution would survive a court challenge, even with a solidly conservative Supreme Court in charge. There is a reason that smart judges around the country have had problems with same-sex marriage bans. They are not always and on their face legal.
The Committee's work was big news here in Colorado, front page of both Denver dailies, but that's only because one of the amendment's sponsor's is Sen. Wayne Allard, a conservative Colorado pol who has made a career out of tilting at this particular windmill. And I presume it is big news with special-interest groups on the left and the right, who see in this issue the titanic struggle between good and evil. But that doesn't mean it deserves the honor.
One day we as a nation should continue our serious debate about same-sex marriage-- in our courts and in our legislatures. In fact, I cannot wait for the day when the United States Supreme Court issues a ruling on the matter because clearly that will be one of the landmark legal rulings of our time. But why would anyone think we need to talk about it now, with all the other horrible problems we face? Have you heard a lot recently from your friends and neighbors about how Congress needs to do something about same-sex marriage? Are people around you blaming it for the fact that gas costs $3/gallon or that are losing soldiers each month in Iraq? Of course not.
Congress should be spending every ounce of its time and energy giving us laws that make our lives better. It should be spending no time and energy on doomed gestures designed to appease one small group over another. With episodes like this, it's no wonder why Congress' appeal is near an all-time low, especially for the Republicans who control both houses.
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