In an early Woody Allen movie, "Take the Money and Run," one of the thugs Allen’s character falls in with is said to be guilty of, among other offenses, marrying a horse. A constitutional amendment to prohibit such unions might well be called "An Amendment Concerning Marriage."
As it happens, "An Amendment Concerning Marriage" is the popular name of Proposed Amendment 3, which will appear on the Arkansas ballot next month. It is not aimed primarily at horses, as we understand — though it would apply — but at prohibiting marriage between people of the same sex. However, the amendment could be construed as doing several other things, rather important, such as limiting legal rights that unmarried people now possess, including the right to receive certain tax benefits. Would elderly widows lose their homestead exemptions? Maybe so, maybe not. The point is that the popular name, which is all that most people read, is so broad there’s no way to tell what’s contained in the proposition. The only thing clear about "An Amendment Concerning Marriage" is that it conceals rather than enlightens.
Two justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court, Ray Thornton and Jim Hannah, recognized the inadequacy of the wording, and would have removed Amendment 3 from the ballot. The five-member majority, unfortunately, felt otherwise. Amend in haste, repent at leisure.
n In 2000, National Rifle Association leaders promised that if George W. Bush were elected president, they’d be operating right out of the Oval Office. They were right. They don’t lack for influence over the Arkansas members of the House of Representatives, either, with the usual honorable exception of Vic Snyder.
On instructions from the NRA, the House enthusiastically overturned the District of Columbia’s 30-year-old gun control laws, waving aside the objections of local officials. Reps. Mike Ross, Marion Berry and John Boozman all voted for repeal, and Ross was even identified as a leader of the movement, though on gun-control issues it is always the NRA that does the leading and congressmen who do the following. Except, as we said, for members such as Vic Snyder, who stubbornly refuse to be intimidated.
"I’m a gun owner myself and would not want Arkansas to adopt the D.C. ordinances," Snyder said. "But D.C., like the 50 states, should be allowed to govern itself as much as it can even if I disagree with their decisions." Snyder actually believes in local control. Most of his colleagues believe in local control when it means middle-class white people controlling the schools. For the black residents of D.C. to regulate guns where they live is another matter.