Responding to the Other Side on Today’s Marriage Decision: The Civil War Amendments

June 26, 2015

Re today’s Supreme Court decisionMy Friday Blog is at pains to emphasize that the Civil War was about slavery.

The states themselves, in their official secession declarations explicitly said it was about slavery.  Look it up.

I agree!  (See, for example, this lengthy piece in The Atlantic, which quotes a lot of primary sources.)

In connection with that discussion, Mr. Wrenn brings up the Fourteenth Amendment.  Again, I agree—the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments are so closely connected with the resolution of the Civil War and the South’s historical mistreatment of black people that the three are sometimes called the Civil War Amendments, the Civil Rights Amendments, or the Reconstruction Amendments.

As My Friday Blog puts it,

. . . the 14th amendment is an amendment to the Constitution.  It is a change to the Constitution.  It was passed by both houses of Congress, and ratified by the states.

Again, I couldn’t agree more.  So why does Mr. Wrenn conclude that the Fourteenth Amendment is about same-sex marriage?

Same response as to Intellectual Prostitution:  Did a supermajority of states think they were responding to slavery and the Civil War by constitutionally requiring same-sex marriage?  If not, when did the Fourteenth Amendment’s meaning change out from under us?  Did the Fourteenth Amendment start requiring the redefinition of marriage in the 1960s? the 1980s? the 2000s? 2013? 2015?  What caused its meaning to secretly change?

The point of having a written constitution is that its meaning is knowable and reliable.  If five judges say that it means one thing one day and another the next, and just impose whatever policy they prefer, then it represents not the rule of law but the rule of men.

Update (June 26th, 2015):  Mr. Wrenn’s thoughtful, carefully argued response is a model of tolerance and civility (warning: language).

Some asshole decided to site this post in his own post that disputed what I said. . . . I merely explained the decision and do not take kindly to being cited as an argument against the law or my opinions, so I broke the link and moved that comment to spam.

With arguments like that, who needs counterarguments?

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4 Responses to “Responding to the Other Side on Today’s Marriage Decision: The Civil War Amendments”


  1. […] on the intolerance of the “tolerance” crowd when a blogger yesterday responded to my constitutional arguments by calling me an A’hole, saying that he does not “take kindly” to people […]

  2. Snoodickle Says:

    If we’re going to stick to the original public meaning of the Constitution, then segregation of the races would be lawful. After all, that was the understanding of the People at the time the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified.


    • I disagree. Yes, I definitely want to stick to the original public meanings of the respective parts of the Constitution. The original meaning of the Civil War Amendments was not about marriage and homosexuality. It certainly was about ending the racial inequality that had been the law in the South and that we had just fought a war to rectify.

      You don’t like my interpretive framework, namely originalism. Fair enough, but what’s the alternative?

      When did the Fourteenth Amendment’s meaning change out from under us? Did the Fourteenth Amendment start requiring the redefinition of marriage in the 1960s? the 1980s? the 2000s? 2013? 2015? What caused its meaning to secretly change?

      The point of having a written constitution is that its meaning is knowable and reliable. If five judges say that it means one thing one day and another the next, and just impose whatever policy they prefer, then it represents not the rule of law but the rule of men.

      • Snoodickle Says:

        But how can you square the original public meaning method of interpretation with the common understanding that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits segregation? The reality is that even originalists understand the Constitution to be an evolving document (see segregation, unequal treatment of women, etc.), just not on the issues that they don’t support such as gay marriage.


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