06 November, 2006

No One Under 35 Can Run For President

In all the talk about Amendment One, I've heard weak arguments on both sides of the Yes/No argument.

The one on the "Vote NO" side that has me about to pull out my hair is the argument that the Constitution (presumably at both the State and the Federal level) exists to protect rights, and that writing an amendment against gay marriage goes against the spirit and purpose of "The Constitution".


While we do love our Bill of Rights and enjoy stirring poems toward the hallowedness of these sacred pieces of paper, the fact of the matter is that the Constitutions at both State and Federal levels are merely documents of legal framework. Yes, everyone has snippets of constitutions memorised and inscribed upon their hearts like secular Bible verses. But if you ever read through the blasted things you'd realise there's a lot of dry tinder about procedure and guidelines. Take for instance the bit about having to be born in America and at least 35 before running for president. In the most basic sense I suppose it can be said to discriminate against foreign-born and naturalised citizens as well as snooty up and comers who are under 35. Yet it's a procedural guideline. That's what these documents ARE all about. To pretend otherwise is to betray a lack of understanding about the nature of constitutional law.

As I've said, there are a great many good arguments on both sides of the fence, and there are weak ones as well. I don't think "Protect Marriage" is a good argument for Voting Yes On One, even though that's what all the signs with happy families want you to believe. Likewise, I think that "writing bigotry into the constitution" is a poor argument for voting no, and I'll be happy to see it go away.


At 2:15 PM, November 06, 2006, Blogger Slartibartfast said...

My children are quite upset that they can never run for president. I told them that's I'd join them in an effort to amend the constitution to allow naturalized citizens to run for president.

It seems unfair, a relic of the past, but at least it keeps George Soros from running for prez!

At 2:50 PM, November 06, 2006, Blogger dolphin said...

There's a major difference between bigotry and discrimination. Procedural guidelines like minimum age for office do discriminate, but they discriminate for a rational reason. As you note, we've written discrimination into our constitution(s) as well as into any number of other laws. Where bigotry differs is that it is discrimination for no reason, other than perhaps "we just don't like you."

That's what people object to. Thus far, no one has been able to articulate any rational reason to discriminate on the basis of gender when it comes to marriage laws. Not even one. Clearly that crosses the line from purposeful discrimination into the realm of bigotry, which should NOT be in any constitution.

At 4:57 PM, November 06, 2006, Anonymous nm said...

There's a difference between thinking that constitutions only protect rights and thinking that (since the tradition in this country has been to use constitutional amendments to enlarge rights) it breaks wth our traditional understanding of constitutional change to use constitutional amendments to restrict rights. Even so, of course, there was the counterexample of the Volstead Act. But I don't think it's accidental that that is the only amendment to the U.S. Constitution to be repealed in its entirety.

And that is also why Amendment 1 will be repealed some day.

At 6:27 PM, November 06, 2006, Blogger melusina said...

I think it is one thing to have procedural restrictions (like the age of the President and you know, 35 seems kinda young to me now that I think about it) and another to start limiting personal preferences. I don't think the latter is the intended use of the constitution - but I suppose in the end it is an inevitable evolution of society.

At 4:50 PM, November 07, 2006, Blogger friedApplePie said...

As someone who has spent many hours working for the Vote No campaign (but not as someone who claims to speak for the campaign), I think that we say it's "writing discrimination into the constitution," not bigotry. And I also think that amending the constitution to expand rights is different than saying that the constitution exists to protect rights.
And just to prove I'm not totally biased by only defending the Vote No arguments, "Protect Marriage" could be a decent argument if it was also acknowledged that Marriage is defined in a narrow heteronormative way.


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