Gay Marriage Amendment vs. the Other 27
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
The Senate today is debating a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. It defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman. So, how does it compare to the other 27 amendments to the Constitution?
Brian Unger wonders aloud in today's Unger Report.
(Soundbite of song, “Wedding March”)
BRIAN UNGER reporting:
For only the 34th time in our nation's history, the United States Senate undertakes a most careful, solemn exercise - amending the Constitution of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity: dudes shouldn't marry dudes, and chicks shouldn't marry chicks?
(Soundbite of song 'Only the Lonely')
Mr. ROY ORBISON (Musician): (Singing) Only the lonely…
UNGER: A constitutional ban on gay marriage. If approved by two-thirds of both House and Senate and ratified by three quarters of the states, would be our nation's 28th amendment, among other bedrock amendments. Like the 13th, prohibiting slavery - definitely a worthy amendment to one of this nation's founding documents, the 13th.
The fourth: prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure. Very just. And that most noble of amendments, the 18th: prohibiting alcohol, which was later then repealed by the far more noble 21st amendment.
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UNGER: The 18th amendment was a temporary lapse in moral judgment. Had it stood, a ban on liquor - more than marriage between gay people - would have certainly destroyed the institution of marriage, or at the very least made weddings unbearable.
(Soundbite of music)
UNGER: But our nation came to its senses, and now attendees everywhere enjoy the Constitutional right to get hammered at a wedding. Your own. Someone else's. Just not at a gay one.
If ratified, the 28th amendment would read like this: “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of a union between a man and a woman. Neither this constitution, nor the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidence thereof be conferred upon any union other than a union of a man and a woman.”
(Soundbite of song, 'Going to the Chapel')
Unidentified Women: (Singing) Going to the chapel of love.
UNGER: States on their own may still approve the civil unions for gay couples that offer similar rights as marriage. But most admit a civil union cake lacks the same panache. Civil union bells - they don't sound as joyful.
(Soundbite of bells ringing)
UNGER: But a drive-through civil union in Vegas? Now that could be sexy.
(Soundbite of song 'Luck be a Lady')
Mr. FRANK SINATRA (Singer): (Singing) Luck be a lady tonight.
UNGER: But to assess a marriage protection amendment fairly, one need look no further than those who do and don't support it. According to those who wrote it, supporters including eight U.S. Catholic cardinals, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Church of God in Christ, and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. Also in support are Mormons, Missouri Senate Lutherans, and Greek and Russian Orthodox churches. Those against the amendment include a coalition of reformed Jews, some Protestant factions, Sikhs, Quakers, the United Church of Christ, and Unitarians.
From these disparate religious perspectives, the gay marriage debate seems settled, rooted more in the religious freedoms of the first amendment than the ratification of a new 28th.
While the amendment has no real chance of passing, the political fracas is akin to showing up a gay disco, waving a burning American flag while singing the national anthem in Spanish. It may not be your thing, but it is a free country. And that is today's Unger Report. I'm Brian Unger.
(Soundbite of music)
BRAND: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News, with contributions from Slate.com. I'm Madeleine Brand.
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
And I'm Alex Chadwick.
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