Plans for a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage came and went again a few weeks ago when supporters in the Senate fell far short of the two-thirds majority they needed for passage. But the amendment lives on as a political weapon for 2006, and Focus on the Family's James Dobson is already fanning the flames with a commentary written for CNN.
Dobson says voters should remember how their senators voted on the constitutional amendment when they go to the polls in November. We don't have any quarrel with him there; moderates in Missouri and Montana and Virginia ought to remember in November that Jim Talent, Conrad Burns and George Allen did the bidding of the religious right in June. But that's about where we stop agreeing with Dobson.
The will of the people: Noting that the amendment got just 49 votes in the Senate, Dobson says that there has "rarely ... been a greater disconnect between members of the Senate and the American people who put them in power." He's wrong and ... he's wrong. An ABC News poll taken earlier this month showed that only 42 percent of the American people favor amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage. Thus, the 49 votes the amendment got in the Senate actually overrepresented the amendment's support among the general public. As for the "disconnect"? Even if one existed, it wouldn't be as rare as Dobson suggests. Just last week, the Senate voted 60-39 against a nonbinding resolution calling for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq -- despite a USA Today/Gallup poll that shows that 57 percent of the public wants Congress to come up with some kind of a withdrawal plan.
The courts: Dobson says that a better measure of public opinion comes in the form of ballot initiatives that have outlawed gay marriage on a state-by-state basis -- but that "arrogant activist judges, most of them appointed by President Bill Clinton or President Jimmy Carter, will simply overturn the will of the electorate." Well, let's see. When the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of marriage rights in 2003, its 4-3 decision was written by a justice appointed by two Republican governors, and two of the three judges who joined in the decision were appointed by Republicans, too. No Clinton or Carter nominees there. Dobson says he's concerned about Anthony Kennedy, who, the last time we checked, was nominated to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan. "It has already happened in Nebraska, Georgia and Louisiana," Dobson warns darkly. We're not sure what "it" is, but if he means that Clinton or Carter appointees have struck down gay marriage bans in those states, he's one-for-three. A Clinton appointee did the deed in Nebraska, but Georgia's ban was invalidated by a judge placed on the bench by former Gov. (and former Democrat) Zell Miller, and the Louisiana ban fell at the hands of an elected Republican judge. The Louisiana law has since been reinstated by that state's Supreme Court; the other rulings are on appeal.
The inevitable hyperbole: Dobson says that "time will tell" if the religious right can save the institution of marriage in America, and he notes -- gratuitous offensive comparison ahead -- that it took "William Wilberforce more than 30 years to bring about an end to Britain's slave trade in the 1800s." By Dobson's way of thinking, slaves could wait for their salvation, but the sanctity of marriage cannot. Referring back to Wilberforce's fight, Dobson says that modern-day marriage crusaders "do not have the luxury of a protracted victory."