Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama jumped right into the belly of the debate about same-sex marriage this Thursday, February 6, when he pushed a state-led constitutional amendment that defines the institution of marriage as a union that occurs between one woman and one man.
The chief justice mailed letters to all fifty states’ governors, urging them to get legislatures to call for a convention to add an amendment to the United States Constitution. The added amendment, reminiscent of the Defense of Marriage Act, would state that the only union recognized federally or by the state governments is “the union of one man and one woman.” Moore also plans to create a website for his cause in order to rally public support.
Moore said that the only way to stop judges who are finding new rights for gay unions is with a state-initiated constitutional amendment to end such, claiming, “Government has become oppressive, and judges are warping the law.”
Currently, seventeen states and the District of Colombia allow same-sex marriage, none of which are in the south. In every southern state, bans on same-sex marriages have been enacted.
This week in Virginia, a federal judge heard arguments on a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on marriage equality. The state’s attorney general declined to defend the law, as he felt it violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
Representative Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, an openly gay state legislator who married her partner in Massachusetts, said she expects most governors to toss Moore’s letter.
“He’s fighting a losing battle, and he probably knows that,” she said in an interview.
Apparently not believing that Congress is planning on a federal anti-equality amendment this year, Moore further proposed going through Article V of the Constitution to get thirty-four states to agree that a convention is necessary. Article V would allow a new amendment to be added to the Constitution, if voted by two-thirds (supermajority) of both Senate and House of Representatives, or by a legislature-assembled national convention of at least two-thirds of the states.
“I think the chief justice has a math problem ahead of him,” said James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s LGBT project. Esseks said that the seventeen states that allow same-sex marriage aren’t likely to reverse their positions and call for a constitutional amendment against equality.