Though everyone insists that we are being deluged with bad laws these days, there seems to be little agreement on what actually constitutes Bad Law. My own rule of thumb equates the degree of Badness with how much the Constitution must be twisted and tortured to get the law to appear to fit.

Using this criterion, Roe v. Wade is fairly Bad; with one hand, it sweeps away all the presumably-unconstitutional state laws regulating the procedure, and with another makes up a purely-arbitrary set of time frames to, you guessed it, regulate the procedure. To that extent, it could be viewed as simply another federal power grab.

Assuming the Second Amendment actually means what it says it does, which for some people is evidently a lot to assume, most present-day gun-control measures show up at the Bad end of the scale, mostly because it's perfectly obvious that the Founders expected the public to be armed and that they didn't make a fuss over the technology involved — no one of that era would seriously argue, for instance, that a musket was an "assault weapon".

Viewed in this light, then, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, currently being considered by the microminds on the Hill, is an extremely Bad law indeed. Apart from the fact that there isn't any sane reason or any Constitutional justification to outlaw homosexual behavior in the first place — and don't quote me Leviticus, unless you're prepared to enact every single provision therein into law, and trust me, you're not — the Act also provides that states can choose not to acknowledge gay marriages that might be allowed by other states, which is a screaming violation of Article IV, Section 1, and not even Mr Justice Scalia will be able to uphold it with a (you should pardon the expression) straight face.

Of course, the mere fact that a law is Bad doesn't keep it from getting passed. And this one seems to be fairly popular, pandering to people's prejudices always being a fixture in American politics, so I expect this bit of legislative dung to sail through both houses and right onto Bill Clinton's desk, where he'll sit on it for eleven days to assure its passage, and then claim that he didn't sign it and therefore isn't responsible for it. Eventually, as the millennium passes by and the right-wing Christians go back under their rock, wiser heads will prevail. And by then maybe someone will have invented a plausible explanation for why gay Americans had to wait so long for Constitutionally-guaranteed equal protection under the law. I'd love to hear it.

The Vent

1 September 1996

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 Copyright © 1996 by Charles G. Hill