In his State of the Union speech, President Bush laid out an ambitious agenda to overhaul Social Security, trim the budget deficit, improve health care and continue to fight the war on terrorism.
Near the end of his speech, he also included a two-line statement that he supported a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage.
U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., already has introduced his own federal "Marriage Protection Amendment." He fought to introduce a similar amendment in 2004, but he was unsuccessful.
Allard said his proposed amendment is not anti-gay, and he is not attempting to change anyone's lifestyle. Allard said he is trying to stop judges and courts from legislating from the bench.
Allard's stance most certainly has support in Northwest Colorado. Moffat County residents are proud of the pro-family approach to life, and they should be. But we're concerned about a constitutional amendment for a couple of reasons.
First, the federal government has plenty of pressing issues to contend with without straying into a moral debate about homosexuality. Lawmakers already are divided on issues that have a significant bearing on all Americans: making Bush's tax cuts permanent and privatizing a portion of Social Security, for example. We would prefer our Colorado representatives in Congress focus on providing adequate health care for rural veterans than vigorously fighting for a constitutional amendment that isn't needed.
Colorado law already prohibits gay marriage and no state is required to recognize any other state's gay marriages under the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Since last year, 13 states have passed marriage amendments to their constitutions.
Republicans are traditionally the party of state's rights and limiting -- not elevating -- the power of the federal government. Because states currently have the authority to decide whether they want to formalize a ban on gay marriage, we're not convinced we need to take the drastic step to amend the U.S. constitution.
We think constitutions should provide guiding principles under which laws can be defined -- not define specific laws. And our objections to tinkering with the constitution amount to protecting public discourse in this country.
As constitutional scholars Vikram Amar and Alan Brownstein note in a writ published for FindLaw's Legal Commentary Web site, the dialogue on gay marriage is still in its infancy and sharply divided along generational lines.
"Americans under the age of 30 have strikingly different attitudes about same-sex marriages than do Americans over the age of 60," they write. "Given the reality that this dialogue is just getting under way, and that there has been so substantial a change in cultural attitudes in a short period of time, why should our society be contemplating a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages now?"
The purpose, it seems, is to shut down the dialogue.
"If successful, the gay-marriage ban amendment would be the first pre-emptive constitutional amendment in American history," Amar and Brownstein conclude. They think it constitutes a misuse of the amendment process.
Their reasoning seems sound, and given that attitudes may vary from state to state, why not let the states decide for themselves?
As long as the courts don't throw out the existing Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages, we think lawmakers should focus on issues that will affect our quality of life.