Undermining Constitutionalism in the Name of Fairness

Thanks to false stereotypes about social conservatives peddled by so-called agents of “tolerance,” I’m sure many liberals expect us to explode into flames over the insertion of same-sex domestic partnerships into the state budget, as if bigotry were our motivation.  Sadly, they’ll have to settle for reasoned argument and serious concerns instead.

With its requirement that participants live together for a scant 30 days to qualify, the measure is begging to be scammed by any two people sharing a residence, not just gay couples.  But that’s not why Wisconsin should be offended.

Many of the so-called rights gay couples are allegedly denied, such as hospital visitation and power-of-attorney related issues, are either already available to gays, easily achievable without creating new government relationship statuses, or were created to aid couples raising children on just one parent’s income, and are thus irrelevant to gay couples (as well as to dual-income straight couples).  But that’s not why Wisconsin should be offended, either.

Wisconsin should be offended because this action was unconstitutional, and the Democratic lawmakers and governor who enacted it, knew it.  It violates the democratically-enacted 2006 Marriage Protection Amendment, which prohibits the state from recognizing “a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals” (the WI Constitution has no “Unless We Really, Really Want To” clause).

Governor Jim Doyle and Democrat apologists claim that, since these new unions have only 43 of civil marriage’s 200-plus benefits, they are not “substantially” similar to marriage and thus constitutional.  Nevertheless, every politician in Madison knows the clear intent of the law—to keep Wisconsin from creating same-sex marriage by another name.

There are many important considerations in the debate over same-sex marriage and civil unions: equality, the best interests of children, religious liberty, and more.  Exploring them could exhaust many Reporter pages, but one principle should never be up for debate in a constitutional republic like America: the rule of law.

Free societies have constitutions to limit what governments can do to their people.  We have an amendment process for when we decide our constitution needs to be changed, but unless and until it is amended, a constitution is the law of the land.  The entire concept of a constitution is that government officials cannot pick and choose which of its provisions to enforce and which to violate, no matter what they may personally think about them.

No matter how unfair or oppressive you believe the marriage amendment to be, I ask you to heed this warning: if you allow our leaders to get away with ignoring the constitution on one issue, you are, in effect, endorsing the principle that any constitutional provision may be ignored if a leader claims he has a good enough reason.  That’s a terrifying prospect, and precisely what our Founding Fathers sought to prevent.

Abraham Lincoln famously remarked that “reverence for the laws” should “become the political religion of the nation,” a basic principle that should unite us all and preserve our liberties.  Jim Doyle and the lawmakers in Madison who allowed this to pass have made clear how little regard they have for the rule of law, and have demonstrated they are unfit to hold the offices with which we have entrusted them.

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