poetics, time, body disruption and marginally queer solutions

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Stop Discriminatory Amendment to the Constitution
Borkulow v. Barney: Unexpected humor at the most recent FMA hearing

Less than a week before joyful gay and lesbian couples married and their friends and families celebrated the end of legalized discrimination against those couples in Massachusetts, Religious Right legal groups were carrying out an increasingly desperate series of legal maneuvers that ended with the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to intervene. And on May 13, with that last-minute legal wrangling in full swing, the Constitution Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee held the third in the planned series of five hearings about “threats” to marriage – this one focused directly on the so-called Federal Marriage Amendment.

It is extremely unfortunate that the hearing attracted so little attention and no C-SPAN coverage, because the contradictions of the FMA advocates’ arguments were glaringly apparent, and because it was so deeply pleasurable to watch Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) upstage and outwit two bigshots of the Religious Right legal community – Robert Bork, retired federal judge and Supreme Court reject, and Jay Sekulow, who heads the legal arm of the Pat Robertson empire, the American Center for Law and Justice. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO), the original sponsor of the FMA, also testified.

Under rules enforced by subcommittee chairman Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), each witness had five minutes for opening remarks and each member of Congress was given five minutes for Q&A.

In his brief opening remarks, Congressman Frank made a couple of major points:

 While the FMA advocates talk about the need to take action against “activist judges,” the constitutional amendment they are promoting would also prevent the people of Massachusetts or any other state from deciding through referendum or legislative action to end discrimination against gay and lesbian couples and their families. This is true even with an amended version of the FMA that its supporters say would keep the door open to legislatures adopting some form of civil union or domestic partnership.

All the hysterical warnings about social chaos descending if same-sex couples are permitted to marry were also made a few years ago about Vermont’s passage of civil unions legislation, and none of that social upheaval has come to pass. Frank quipped that saying “I told you so” is “one of the few pleasures that improves with age.”


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