Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Vote No in November

In 1787, the United States Constitution was drafted; a Bill of Rights was added less than 2 years later. Citizens felt they needed certain rights to be enumerated and specifically protected. It wasn't enough to simply declare independence for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"; Americans wanted to protect themselves against potential governmental excesses, like those they had suffered under English rule. The Constitution set out the functions of the federal government, which can pass laws to govern its citizens, and the Bill of Rights gave citizens protection from that same government. In other words, constitutional amendments are the "laws" which the government must follow.

Obviously, the men who wrote the US Constitution could not anticipate all of the ways in which the world would change after their time. They could not foresee women's rights, for example, or the development of the technology to put a man on the moon. The Constitution was written to be a basic document upon which to build a country; laws are more flexible and can be added or stricken as situations change. Amendments to a constitution, national or state, should only be used in cases where the existing document fails to protect the rights of the citizens or properly define the role of the government. Even though the world today is very different than when any of these constitutions were written, these basic documents still apply.

In Texas, the Constitution is already burdened with hundreds of amendments, 174 of which have been defeated by voters. On November 8, 2005, you have the opportunity to defeat a constitutional amendment which would limit the rights of certain citizens unnecessarily. HJR 6, or Proposition 2, would define marriage as "the union of one man and one woman" and prohibit the state of Texas from "recognizing any legal status identical to or similar to marriage." If amendments to a Constitution are intended to protect and expand the rights of citizens, then this Proposition is antithetical to the very nature of a just amendment. As this amendment would also prohibit the recognition of civil unions legal in other states, it also violates Article IV of the United States Constitution, which specifies that individual states must honor the contracts issued by other states.

Voting against Proposition 2 will not legalize gay marriage in the state of Texas; homosexuals are not currently allowed to marry or enter civil unions here. If you believe this is a situation that deserves change, there are ways to fight for expanding rights for homosexual couples, and voting No in November is certainly a first step. However, voting against this amendment is not necessarily a vote for gay rights. Voting against Proposition 2 is a vote for keeping discrimination out of our state's constitution; it is also a vote for keeping religious beliefs, even those of a majority, out of our government. Conservatives should vote against this amendment to limit the excesses of a large government, and liberals should vote against this amendment to protect civil liberties of the citizens of the state of Texas. Without a constitutional amendment "defining" marriage, people in this state can continue to define marriage in whatever way they deem appropriate, legally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Keep unnecessary and discriminatory amendments out of the Texas state constitution. Vote No in November.

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