By: Brian Sikma
Last week Senator Fred Thompson did something that could very well cost him the Republican presidential nomination (assuming he decides to jump in the race of course). At first it started out okay, CNN did an interview of Thompson in which he was asked about his views on a constitutional amendment protecting marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Here’s how the dialogue went:
King: “Would you, a President Fred Thompson, actively push a presidential [sic] amendment banning gay marriage?”
Thompson: “Yes, yes, I think that with regard to gay marriage you have a full-faith-and-credit issue.”
What Thompson is referring to by the “full-faith-and-credit issue” is the Constitutional declaration that the legal proceedings in one state shall generally be legally binding in another state. Without the full faith and credit clause it is conceivable that court proceedings in one state may not be recognized as legally binding in another state. This situation would lead to a very confusing and conflicting series of laws and court judgements. The result would be endless legal disputes; and in the area of business the result would be anarchy in financial and commercial dealings involving parties from two or more states.
While the full-faith-and-credit clause is important, it can be a double edged sword on the issue of the definition of marriage. Although the overwhelming majority of the states define marriage as one man and one woman, and although a majority of states have protected marriage in the form of a state constitutional amendment, a handful of states that define marriage differently could wreak havoc on the marriage laws of all 50 states. Right now, the federal Defense Of Marriage Act prevents other states from being forced to recognize same-sex “marriages” performed in states such as Massachusetts. However, all that would be needed for the DOMA protections to be swept away would be for a single federal court to decide that DOMA is unconstitutional.
This means that one of the best ways to protect marriage is in the United States is to pass a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Without this constitutional grade protection, the definition of marriage in all 50 states is just a single court decision away from a radical alteration.
With that background on Sen. Thompson’s statement, let’s take a look at what happened after he did the CNN interview. As the media picked up on Sen. Thompson’s answers to the questions. The Thompson campaign issued this press release:
“In an interview with CNN today, former Senator Fred Thompson’s position on constitutional amendments concerning gay marriage was unclear.
“Thompson believes that states should be able to adopt their own laws on marriage consistent with the views of their citizens.
“He does not believe that one state should be able to impose its marriage laws on other states, or that activist judges should construe the constitution to require that.
“If necessary, he would support a constitutional amendment prohibiting states from imposing their laws on marriage on other states.
“Fred Thompson does not support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.” [Emphasis added]
First, Sen. Thompson answers “Yes, yes” in response to a question about whether or not he would support a Federal Marriage Amendment. Then, his campaign comes out with the declaration that he “does not support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.” This is a disturbing flip flop on an issue that is very important to Republican primary voters. Although Thompson’s support for a constitutional amendment allowing states to define the issue themselves is better than doing nothing, it is a far cry from really addressing what is at stake here. What is at stake is not just whether or not states can define marriage, but whether the nation as a whole will collectively understand that marriage is the union of one man and one woman only.
This attempt to tip-toe around a foundational cultural issue sends primary voters the message that a President Thompson would not seek to fully address key cultural issues that have great legal ramifications. Byron York said that Fred Thompson is a man who cannot afford to make a misstep. Sen. Thompson just made a huge misstep on this issue, and it could very well cost him the nomination.
If you do a Google Search of “Fred Thompson Marriage Amendment” you will get roughly alternating results reading “Fred Thompson Supports Marriage Amendment” and “Fred Thompson Doesn’t Support Marriage Amendment”.