Despite Michele Bachmann’s support for New York State’s right to legalize same-sex marriage, her position on this issue is still inconsistent and illogical. Here is what she told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday (emphasis is in the original):
BACHMANN: In New York state, they have passed the law at the state legislative level and, under the 10th amendment, the states have the right to set the laws that they want to set.
WALLACE: So even though you oppose it, then its ok from — your point of view — for New York to say that same-sex marriage is legal.
BACHMANN: That is up to the people of New York. I think that it’s best to allow the people to decide on this issue. I think it’s best if there is an amendment that goes on the ballot, where people can weigh in. […]
WALLACE: But you would agree, if its passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor then that’s the state’s position.
BACHMANN: It’s state law. And the 10th amendmet reserves to the states that right.
But wait (emphasis is mine):
Bachmann later said, however, that she would prefer a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, but that before such an amendment was enacted, the states should be free to do as they wish.
It requires a unique form of logic to support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman when, according to Bachmann and other social conservatives, there already is “a set definition of marriage that has been part of the human endeavor from time immemorial,” which same-sex marriage “radically redefines.”
Why would we need a constitutional amendment to “define” an institution that has had a “set definition … from time immemorial”?
Of course, this begs the question of why it would be so objectionable to redefine marriage, or re-think our collective understanding of what marriage means or is, even if the religious right’s claim for the existence of a “set definition” were real or legitimate. The meaning of words does change over time, and our understanding of any number of human, societal institutions — very much including marriage — has indisputably changed over time, and has also varied among different cultures and religious traditions. The biblical patriarchs would have been quite surprised to hear that “from time immemorial,” marriage has been defined as one man and one woman. In reality, the concept of marriage as a sacred union between a man and a woman, ordained by God, didn’t exist at all before the Christian era. And in the two millennia since the Christian era began, marriage has not always, in every place or at every time, been defined as a sacred union between one man and one woman. As just one example, the Mormon church did not end polygamy as a religious practice until 1890.
The definitions of male and female roles in heterosexual marriage have also changed and been redefined over time. Need I explain the myriad profound ways in which society has departed from or modified the gender roles and rules that ‘Almighty God’ ordered men and women to obey in the Bible? Divorce? The concept of “consenting adult” and/or “consensual sex” within marriage? Property rights? Child-rearing prescriptions? So somehow modern divorce or inheritance laws or prosecuting husbands for marital rape do not constitute “radical redefinitions” of what marriage has meant “from time immemorial,” but the gender of the two individuals in a marriage does? How does that work?
And another thing: if a federal law permitting same-sex marriage would constitute government taking over an institution that it didn’t create or define, then what would one call a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman? Social conservatives like Michele Bachmann clearly do not object to government takeovers of marriage when the purpose of so doing is to deny an entire class of human beings the same rights that they enjoy.