Things To Act
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Hatch Drops Proposed Laissez-Faire Marriage Amendment
Also from the SLTrib article linked below:
Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah has dropped plans to write his own constitutional amendment to allow state legislatures to decide if they will legally honor gay marriages performed in another state, throwing his full support behind a version drafted by Republican colleagues that forbids states from recognizing any same-sex marriage.
Hatch didn't specify why he shelved a plan he announced in March to write an amendment that did not include a definition of marriage as "a union of a man and woman" into the Constitution, as the Allard bill does. He had said it would be easier to win Senate passage of a resolution that did not include the definition but gave states the right to buck the "full faith and credit clause" of the Constitution and refuse to recognize marriages that may be deemed legal in other states. Allard opposed Hatch's approach, saying it could actually allow states to legalize polygamy, and Republican leadership has been working to present the image of GOP members united behind Allard's Federal Marriage Amendment.
"It's coming down to this one amendment and I'm willing to -- I'm co-sponsor of this amendment and I will vote for it," Hatch said.

Sometimes quashing a moderate alternative is necessary to get everyone on board to pass a successful policy breakthrough. Other times, the breakthrough will not pass, when a compromise proposal might have. My sense is the FMA probably resembles the former situation more than the latter.

The FMA can be framed as an extreme alternative that undercuts states' rights and (however unjust the accusation may be) prevents states from even enacting civil unions. Hatch's proposal, on the other hand, could be framed solely as a means of stopping a runaway judiciary. Hatch's proposal would be easier to use to embarrass politicians who claim that no amendment is necessary to block SSM, while the FMA gives them plenty of rhetorical cover.

In addition, the average American voter may prefer a situation such as that created by Hatch's amendment, but if forced to chose between a status quo sliding toward SSM and the FMA, may prefer the status quo. Assuming that the American voter has preferences H > SQ > FMA, and that the average marriage conservative prefers FMA > H > SQ (as H at least blocks SSM in conservative states, if allowing it in liberal ones), conservatives may be shooting themselves in the foot by holding out for FMA.

On the other hand, it could be that some of those in power prefer to complain about SSM rather than try to prevent it from spreading (similar to the cynical view of abortion politics, for instance, which holds that the last thing anti-abortion politicians want is abortion laws with teeth, as they would either be unsuccessful and unpopular or deprive the politicians of a surefire campaign issue).

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