Gay marriage is now legal in several more states, most recently because of the Iowa Supreme Court and the Maine Legislature. And it i just about time for this issue to come back to New Jersey. Sure we have civil unions – shown in practice not to have the same benefits of marriage – but that’s not good enough for some right-wing zealots. In order to turn out the conservative vote in an upcoming election, there is a movement afoot to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to define a marriage as an institution between one man and one woman.
I used to think that the American dream was owning your own house with two cars in the garage and a having a dog that gets your slippers and the Saturday Evening Post. But apparently I’m wrong. The American dream is traditional marriage. After all, look at our presidents. All but James Buchannan were married. And say what you will about infidelity in the White House, but there has only been one divorced president: Ronald Reagan.
But back to the topic at hand. Now, I don’t think that fundamental constitutional rights should be left up to the whims of the ever changing climate of politics. But that’s just me. For example, Freedom of speech, right to a jury trial, and right to Equal Protection and Due Process before the law are fundamental rights that would never have been put up for a state by state vote today. In case after case, the Supreme Court has asserted and upheld the fact that marriage is a “fundamental freedom". In Loving v Virginia (1967), Zablocki v Redhail (1978) and Turner v Safley (1987), the fine folks of the SC got the issue right.
A state by state piece meal rendering of fundamental rights gives us nothing but a hodge-podge patchwork that means trouble with a capital T. Once long ago, America tried to solve the issue of slavery on a state by state basis with popular sovereignty. Hey, how’d that work of for ya? Well, 620,000 military deaths, three constitutional amendments, and one presidential assassination later, you see what we wrought.
It is a fundamental right that two loving and committed adults, whether heterosexual or homosexual, should be able to be legally married. However, if the Republicans want this issue on the ballot in New Jersey, then I think we need some ground rules on just who should be allowed to vote.
Of course, divorced people should be taken off the voter rolls. If they can’t maintain the sanctity of their own marriage, who are they to determine the sanctity of other marriages? DONE.
I’d also disqualify anyone who committed adultery or any couple living together in sin. GONE.
Additionally, if anyone is over 45 who has never been married should not be allowed to vote. If they can’t commit by then, are they really committed to America? ADIOS.
While we’re at it, if Republicans want this done on a state by state basis nationally, perhaps we should have the vote done in NJ on a county by county basis. Maybe even on a town by town basis. After all, if we’re trying to protect the institution of marriage, and we’re letting people vote on it, maybe we should put weddings up for a vote, or at least before local officials who are surely committed to protecting the sanctity of marriage in their own towns. Maybe we need —in addition to Planning Boards, School Boards, Fire Districts, and Borough Councils —-a Sanctity of Marriage Board. An elected group of pious and committed community minded folks who can decided who should marry, and who should not. What’s another level of government bureaucracy in state with 566 municipalities?
Currently, a couple shows up to city hall and applies for a wedding license. All very clerical and merely ministerial. But maybe it would be better for the happy couple to appear before the Sanctity of Marriage Board and prove to the duly elected leaders of the community that each of them are committed to the institution of marriage. They could have witnesses too! Maybe the bride’s mother pleading with the Board for their approval, or a jilted boyfriend seeking a denial in order to get a second chance with the bride. It’s all quite clear to me now.
Imagine the election campaigns for the coveted spots on the Sanctity of Marriage Board? An SMB incumbent walking door-to-door campaigning for votes might hear comments like, “Our property taxes have gone down, and I do like the additional trash pick-up day, but how could you let that nice college girl from the Feldman family marry that dirtbag from the Zansky clan?” Or, “I set my sister up with a doctor. A doctor! And you voted against their wedding. And now, she’s living by herself in an apartment with twenty cats! You lost my vote, pal!”
Of course, this is all quite reasonable because marriage is too important an instition to be simply left to adults making private decisions about their own future.
Marriage is a sacred institution, so sacred, that it must be put up for a vote.