Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Wilkinson argues against amendment in Virginia

No less than J. Harvie Wilkinson III, who served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell (1972-73) and was appointed to the Fourth Circuit bench by Ronald Reagan (1984), has weighed in on the amendment that’s on Virginia’s ballot in November, supposedly designed to ban same-sex marriages. Here’s an excerpt from the scholarly Wilkinson’s OpEd piece, “Hands Off Constitutions,” which appears in the Washington Post:

“...The Framers meant our Constitution to establish a structure of government and to provide individuals certain inalienable rights against the state. They certainly did not envision our Constitution as a place to restrict rights or enact public policies, as the Federal Marriage Amendment does.

“Ordinary legislation -- not constitutional amendments -- should express the community's view that marriage ‘shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.’ To use the Constitution for prescriptions of policy is to shackle future generations that should have the same right as ours to enact policies of their own. To use the Constitution as a forum for even our most favored views strikes a blow of uncommon harshness upon disfavored groups, in this case gay citizens who would never see this country's founding charter as their own.”

Because he’s an honest and thoughtful judge who won’t walk in lockstep with the latest neoconservative orders, will proponents of this hastily put together amendment now rush to call Judge Wilkinson a moonbat, or a liberal?

Or, will some new-style Republicans actually read Wilkinson’s words and come to realize that he is taking the classic conservative stance with the title of his opinion piece -- Hands Off Constitutions?

Wilkinson adds:

“...I do not argue that same-sex marriage is a good or desirable phenomenon, only that constitutional bans on same-sex unions carry terrible costs.”

So, the legal expert is saying that there are plenty of reasons to vote against this amendment, also known as the Marshall/Newman amendment.

Moreover, there was a time when conservatism in America stood for something finer than simply being mean-spirited and backward. The father of the conservative movement in the 1960s, Barry Goldwater, must be spinning in his grave. Isn’t it high time for true conservatives to separate themselves from today’s so-called neoconservatives, whose opportunistic agenda is looking more and more like a runaway train?

Neocons talk about protecting tradition, but they want to rewrite constitutions. They talk about law and order, but they only trust judges that are also onboard the runaway train. They talk about prudent fiscal policy, but they don't mind breaking the bank with reckless spending at home and abroad. They talk about getting the government off their backs, but they applaud unprecedented efforts by the federal government to spy on Americans in their homes.

Wilkinson is telling Virginians to reject this poorly written amendment. To him, it is not a matter of gimmicks put on the ballot, designed to help Republican candidates. He’s talking about voting no to this ballot question:

Shall Article I (the Bill of Rights) of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to state:

“That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions.

“This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.”?

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