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Issue Position: Amending the Constitution, Dividing America

Issue Position

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Issue Position: Amending the Constitution, Dividing America

Our reluctance to amend the Constitution has served the nation well. It has preserved the Constitution as the foundation of our nation's democracy and diversity. It has enabled groups who disagree on matters of policy to rally in support of the Constitution's broad principles. It has prevented the entrenchment in the Constitution of practices and policies that, over time, ended up not working, or failing to reflect shared American values. It has strengthened our pluralistic society by preventing partisan groups from writing their divisive political and social agenda into the founding document of our democracy.

It speaks volumes that the Senate Republican leadership is taking this disgraceful detour into right-wing campaign politics, when so much genuine Senate business is still unfinished and so little time is left to get it done.

The Senate Republican leadership has consistently failed to address these and many other urgent priorities. It has taken no action to fix America's broken health care system. It has blocked passage of the Patients' Bill of Rights. It has refused to allow a vote on raising the minimum wage.

Rather than deal with these urgent priorities, the leadership is engaging in the politics of mass distraction, by bringing up a discriminatory marriage amendment to the United States Constitution that a majority of Americans do not support.

We all know what this issue is about. It's not about how to protect the sanctity of marriage, or how to deal with Activist judges. It's about politics and an attempt to drive a wedge between one group of citizens and the rest of the country, solely for partisan advantage. We've rejected that tactic before, and I'm hopeful that we will do so again. I'm also hopeful that many of our Republican colleagues x those with whom we've worked over the years on a bipartisan basis to expand and defend the civil rights of gay and straight Americans alike x will join us in rejecting this divisive effort.

In 1999, an independent organization, the Constitution Project, convened a bipartisan blue-ribbon committee of former public officials, scholars, journalists, and other prominent Americans. The committee, called the "Citizens for the Constitution," included former Republican Congressmen Mickey Edwards, John Buchanan, James Courter; former Democratic Senator Dale Bumpers; former Attorney General Elliot Richardson; and several conservative scholars and policy advocates. The task before this bipartisan blue-ribbon committee was to set guidelines for the consideration of proposed amendments to the United States Constitution. Citing James Madison's clear statement that the Constitution should be amended only on "great and extraordinary occasions," the committee emphasized that since the ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights over two hundred years ago, only seventeen amendments have been adopted to the Constitution. Aside from the Prohibition Amendment, which was soon recognized as a mistake and was repealed thirteen years later, nearly all of the amendments to the Constitution have expanded or protected people's rights, not limited them.

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