Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The District recognizes state's rights, will Ron Paul?

Ron Paul watchers, and the Rondroids themselves, ought to watch the development of one issue very carefully.

Just today the City Council for Washington, D.C., voted to recognize gay marriages that are performed in the states that allow it. That would currently be Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa—Maine seems posed to join that group any day now. Only one council member opposed the measure, that was the coke-snorting moralistic Marion Berry. Berry is also known to ignore laws (such as not paying taxes, driving without a license, etc) which he, as a city council members, helps keep in place. Laws are for the little people.

What makes this interesting for Ron Paul is that this proposal has to go to Congress for a vote. Remember that as the nation’s capitol, the District can have laws over-ridden by Congress when they so chose.

If you go back to 1981 the District revised their laws regulating sexuality. One of the main measures was that it repealed the laws making it a crime for adults of the same-sex to have sex with one another. Of course, the moment that was announced, Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority went into a tizzy fit demanding that the Republican-controlled Congress stand up for “morality” and reinstate “sodomy” as crime. Ron Paul joined in that campaign

Paul’s excuse, when questioned by libertarians. Was that the legislation reduced the District’s penalties for rape. Technically that was true but he neglected to tell the whole story. The reduction in the rape penalty came at the request of anti-rape organizations. The penalty was considered so high that jurors were reluctant to convict without absolutely overwhelming evidence. As a consequence many rapists were being found not guilty. A reduction in the penalty made it more likely that a rapist would be convicted.

When questioned by members of the Religious Right Paul didn’t need an excuse.. In fact, that year, Christian Voice, a Christianist group pushing social conservative theocracy, gave Paul a 100% perfect score, partly due to Paul’s willingness to make private sexual acts between adults a crime. It took another twelve years before the sodomy laws in the District were finally repealed without a Congressional override.

So does the city council of the District have the right to recognize legal marriages from other states? Of course, they do. The measure in question is a one-issue piece of legislation without other clauses to provide cover for a socially conservative, anti-libertarian vote.

On basic federalist principles there is no legitimate reason for Congress to step in and overturn the District’s recognition of legal marriages performed in any of the states. All the District is saying is that if a state recognizes a couple as married they will do so as well. So, will Paul allow the District to recognize the decisions of the various states or not. Or will he prefer to impose a federal restriction preventing the District from recognizing the actions of the various states?

It is hard to guess what he will do. Certainly Paul’s record has been heavily socially conservative, often downright unlibertarian. He says he recognizes the rights of the states to make their own decisions yet he has been rather inconsistent on that as well. As I see it there is no clear-cut libertarian case to override the City Council in this matter—but there wasn’t a legitimate reason for doing so in 1981 but that didn’t stop him. I don’t know what he will do, though if I had to bet, I would lay my money on him voting to overturn the measure.

A Democratic-controlled Congress is no guarantee that the measure won’t be overturned. There are plenty of socially conservative Democrats. If the measure appears to be a tight vote that situation would be especially telling in regards to Paul’s vote. In a tight vote the Religious Right, which has Paul’s heart, will be putting hard pressure to overturn the measure. That may make it impossible for Paul not to vote his heart—which is not libertarian on these matters. If the measure has no chance of winning, or if there is little pressure from groups like the National Organization for (sic) Marriage, then Paul might get away with making some federalist noises and voting no on repeal. Of course it is also possible he will take the coward’s way out and simply find an excuse not to vote at all.

Whatever happens it will be interesting to watch.

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