Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

That Didn't Last Long

Story here. Barely three weeks old, and the Louisiana Gay Marriage Amendment has been ruled unconsitutional. Of course, we've still got state appeals, state Supreme Court appeals, and then whatever is simmering in the federal courts - so everyone recognizes that this thing is far from over.

Somewhat surprising, however, is the reason for the ruling, which has nothing to do with equal protection or gay rights (at least, not obstensibly). It seems that the state Constitution doesn't allow an amendment to have more than one "object," and this one has two: defining the boundaries of legal marriage, and forbidding recognition of marriage-like status (i.e. banning civil unions). The constitutional provision can be found here, and in relevant part it says: "A proposed amendment ... shall be confined to one object..."

Keeping in mind that I support a constitutional ban on gay marriage (mostly for judicial activism reasons, as discussed below), I also support doing things by the book, and so I don't mind seeing this amendment go down in flames if it violates the proper procedure. Call me wacky, but I believe we have rules for a reason.

That said, the real question is what the constitution means by "one object." That is, to what extent can a judge split hairs. Because the amendment can easily be described in one of two ways:

1. It limits judicial expansion of the traditional notion of legal relationships by defining those relationships.

2. It bans gay marriage, and it bans civil unions.

Both statements are true and in no sense a misrepresentation of what is actually in the amendment. One is constitutionally valid. The other is not. So how should the judge have ruled? I honestly don't know, and that's because I can't find a searchable version of the state constitution that shows past amendments. That's what it boils down to, in my opinion. If past amendments have stood up to scrutiny even though the covered two split-hair objects, then this amendment should have stood up, too. But if the courts have consistently held the legislature to a very strict reading of the "one object" rule, then this amendment, too should be held invalid.