William F. Buckley
Key figures in the administration have involved themselves in the matter of the amendment to limit marriage to members of complementary sexes. Mrs. Bush was heard to say on television that she hoped the question would not become a "campaign tool." To let this happen, she suggested, would remove it from the moral plane on which it should travel.

Precisely such a plane is where Mrs. Cheney's daughter Mary believes it belongs. She is a lesbian, a fact everywhere acknowledged but here noted with reluctance, because it oughtn't to figure in the discussion. Ms. Cheney's point is that the contemplated amendment is exactly that, a moral ruling given constitutional dress. If it were passed, it would be "writing discrimination into the Constitution, (which is) fundamentally wrong."

Mrs. Bush's appeal, however appealing, is not likely to inform the debate ahead. Almost all public issues tend to be politicized. The rule shouldn't be strictly applied, but it is generally so that liberals, whose party is Democratic, tend to permissive alternatives. In the debate on Prohibition, which was passed with overwhelming popular endorsement in 1917, the anti-liquor forces were associated with that part of America on the warpath against sinful practices. It was a decade before liberals consolidated their position in favor of repeal, as urged by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

It is an item of minor historical interest that the repeal of the 18th Amendment zipped through the state legislatures faster than any other in constitutional history. But those who wish to make a libertarian point against the amendment currently proposed have got to grope for appropriate language, which doesn't come readily to mind.

Because the point at issue has to do not exclusively with connubial relations, but with the sanctions that are visited by the state on connubial unions. It is one thing for a state to decree that a man cannot have sexual relations with another man -- such an intrusion attempts prohibitions that are blissfully unenforceable. What the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) was that sodomy is protected under the 14th Amendment. It did not rule that the state of Texas was required to enshrine homosexual unions as "marriages."

The making of civil laws is a political enterprise. States have differed over the years on what it is that is required in order to qualify for a marriage license. The most obvious differences have had to do with age. Others require variable lengths of time between the filing of an application and the issuance of a license. Some have differing health requirements.


William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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