Commentary on Alabama Law and Society

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Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Alabama Constitution: Home Sweet Home For Stupidity

As expected, the anti-gay people amendment passed. Supporters had plenty of compelling reasons for it.

John Giles, head of Alabama’s Christian Coalition, tells us "Marriage is a sacrament.” Of course he fails to explain why the civil law should attempt to enforce his own views of that religious doctrine.

The bill’s sponsor thinks gay people are icky: "I [introduced the amendment] after a trip to San Francisco where I saw a black man and a white woman two men on television in a public place kissing deeply.” He does not explain how this amendment will prevent public displays of affection, nor why we should codify his squeamishness.

Anyway, to put this amendment in context, let’s look at some other provisions of our state constitution.

Section 102, our first defense of marriage: “The legislature shall never pass any law to authorize or legalize any marriage between any white person and a negro, or descendant of a negro.”

All right, that was unfair. Amendment 667 (you read that right – the six hundred and sixty seventh amendment) annulled that one in the year 2000 (you read that right to - the two thousandth year of our lord).

Section 256, however, is still on the books. The original version stated: “Separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race.”

Amendment 111 ‘fixed’ Section 256: “To avoid confusion and disorder and to promote effective and economical planning for education, the legislature may authorize the parents or guardians of minors, who desire that such minors shall attend schools provided for their own race, to make election to that end.”

In addition to enshrining bigotry, the world’s longest constitution also addresses several other serious and weighty matters

Amendment 400: “Notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution, the legislature may hereafter, by general law, provide for the promotion of, the production, research, distribution, marketing, use, improvement and sale of swine and swine products.” Maybe this explains the aroma wafting from Montgomery over the rest of the state?

Like the we-hate-homos amendment, Number 387 discusses licenses: In Madison County “No bingo license shall be issued to any nonprofit organization, unless such organization shall have been in existence for at least 23 months immediately prior to the issuance of the license”

Nor is this the first time we’ve amended the constitution in order to get rid of a pestilence. Number 449: “Notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution, the legislature may hereafter, by general law, provide for the eradication or control of the boll weevil.” Maybe Tom DeLay could help with this one, he's got time on his hands.

Furthermore, we only amend our constitution when we are dead serious about an issue. Number 520: “The Madison county commission is hereby authorized with or without charge to provide for the excavating of human graves.”

And Alabamians don’t waste their constitutional resources on garbage. Number 521: “The Pickens county governing body shall levy and impose a fee of not less than sixty dollars per ton on solid waste.”

But we do dare defend our rights. Number 597: “All persons shall have the right to hunt and fish in this state in accordance with law and regulations. This amendment shall be known as the “Sportsperson's Bill of Rights.’”

On the topic of sex we also have Number 688: In Jefferson County, “It shall be unlawful for the owner or manager of any hotel, motel, inn, boardinghouse, apartment house, or any lodging place or like kind to employ a person who has been convicted of aiding or abetting prostitution.”

Finally, for now, Number 715 leaves me asking, what about bull? “The Legislature, by general law, may provide for the promotion of the production, distribution, improvement, marketing, use, and sale of sheep or goats.”

In short, I think Alabama’s constitution is the perfect home for this amendment.