Remedial Civics for James Dobson

On September 20, 2007, in General, by Neil Stevens

Remedial Civics Lesson One: How the Constitution is Amended

It has come to my attention that James Dobson is using the strong variant* of the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment as a litmus test of Republican Presidential nominees, rejecting those who reject it.

However this makes no sense. Mr. Dobson appears to have forgotten that while a bill becomes a law only if it receives the President’s approval (barring a veto override), a Constituional Amendment requires no such support.

Simply, a Constitutional Amendment comes into force when it clears two hurdles: proposal and ratification. It must succeed at both of these, in order, to become law.

There are two ways an amendment can be officially proposed to the states. The first, and in fact the only way an amendment has ever been achieved in practice, is for both houses of the Congress to give the amendment their two thirds approval. The second way, which has never happened, is for two thirds of the state legislatures to apply for a new Convention, in the style of the original in Philadelphia, which would then draft and finally vote to propose one or more amendments.

By Convention or by Congress, a proposed amendment must then move on to ratification before it becomes law. Again, there are two ways for this to work, and the Congress may propose either method be used for a given amendment. Firstly and again I believe the only way in practice, three fourths of the state legislatures may approve the amendment, at which time it becomes part of the Constitution. Secondly, the states may be directed to hold conventions, and then if three fourths of the state conventions ratify the amendment, the amendment is ratified and part of the Constitution.

At no point in time does the President have any say whatsoever in the passage of an amendment. Therefore, I respectfully submit to Mr. Dobson that he should re-read Article V of the Constitution, and get to work now to lobby to propose his preferred FMA, rather than hassling our Presidential nominees about something they’d have no control over at all.

* There have been two forms of the FMA proposed. One would be just write the Defense of Marriage Act into the Constitution, which means it defines marriage for the purposes of the federal government, and also prohibits the states from being forced by the courts to accept other definitions of marriage. I call this the ‘weak’ form. Another, the one that Dobson refers to, is the ‘strong’ form

in that it goes beyond DoMA and forces all the states to use the same basic definition of marriage.

Comments are closed.

Nima Jooyandeh facts.