Bill Murchison

 Well, just who's happy that the Senate this week is debating the Federal Marriage Amendment, defining marriage as the union exclusively of a man and a woman?

 Are Democrats happy? Not hugely. For all that they meant the whole time to sink the amendment on a procedural vote, there is the inconvenience of the thing, the necessity of -- one more time -- reminding the electorate that Democrats aren't hot to defend traditional cultural norms.

 Are Republicans happy? To the extent, perhaps, that the issue finally gets out in the sunshine. But out in the sunshine, the party's inability to pass such an amendment, and gratify an important constituency, will show up all the more clearly.

 I think nonetheless a bigger disheartenment lies in store for amendment backers. It is knowledge -- the in-your-face variety -- of how things get done in modern America.

 Here's how they get done: You get the media and the judiciary on your side; they do the rest.

 That sounds like elitism? Elitism it is: meaning the capacity, enjoyed by a select, like-minded few, to shove social change down the more numerous throats of others ill-prepared for said change.

 The reason the Senate has been debating the constitutional amendment is that courts -- notably the highest Massachusetts court -- has been foisting on the population a conceptual overhaul of the oldest human institution there is: marriage. The Massachusetts judges, ordering the state to legitimate same-sex unions, proclaimed the existence of "an evolving paradigm" regarding marriage. Now you see the historic understanding; now you don't.

 Oh? And how did the judges know? Well, a little bird or, likelier, television, notable newspapers and magazines told them. When you have evolving paradigms, the last thing you're to look for is stability of understanding. Yesterday's truth, in the evolving-paradigm department, is tomorrow's cranky opinion.

 I'll wager you just noted a seeming inconsistency. Aren't court decisions known as "opinions"? They certainly are, which is one reason courts used to be fairly modest when it came to shaking up institutions. This was becoming in the judges. They recognized, to one degree or another, that democratic government rests on the consent of the governed, not the consent of those who do the governing.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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