Volume 13, Issue 5 ~ February 3 - February 9, 2005
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Constitutional Monkey Business

There isn't much that endures in a throw-away society where instant gratification arrives too slowly for many.

That's one reason we take a dim view of people trying to amend the Constitution, be it in Washington or in Annapolis.

We're seeing mischief at opposite ends of the political spectrum in that regard. Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly and environmental advocates want a constitutional amendment that would require legislative approval before a state park or preserved land can be sold.

Meanwhile, conservative forces in the Legislature aim to impose a constitutional amendment on Marylanders to prohibit same-sex marriage.

Both are unnecessary, and each takes time away from the chief business in Annapolis that needs to be done: handling state finances judiciously; looking out for the welfare of people who need help; and putting Chesapeake Bay back on the road to health.

You could argue that changing the constitution to prohibit sale of fragile lands is one sure way to save the Bay. But as anyone with political sense knows, this amendment is more about embarrassing Gov. Robert Ehrlich than about saving land.

It stems, or course, from Ehrlich's bungled dealings trying to sell 836 acres of land in St. Mary's County to a politically wired developer. Reporting thereafter shone the light on dozens more parcels under review, and Ehrlich compounded the damage with stubborn, off-with-the-head-of-the-messenger denials.

As a former college football player, Ehrlich can recall what it feels like to have a helmet driven into his ribs. Those were the sorts of blows he absorbed during his L'Affaire Atteris after forgetting that you can't operate like a Wyoming ‘Wise-Use' radical in a state that demands moderation.

Besides the state Board of Public Works, we have the bright light of public condemnation as a perfectly good buffer for unwise land sales. So let's dispense with talk of amending the constitution to get it done.

As for the gay-marriage amendment, we have difficulty understanding the stew of tenacious beliefs and insecurities that have given rise to this movement.

But it is out there, as we saw when 11 such amendments passed around the country last year. ‘Morality' trumps a lot of other issues, and we hope that as proponents pursue their goal in the Maryland General Assembly, they don't lose sight of the immorality of discrimination.

Again, let's not muddy up the Constitution with politics and fear.

Under our system, Marylanders would be voting on these amendments in November 2006, when the governor and statewide officials are up for re-election, along with key Anne Arundel and Calvert offices. We don't need diversions.

The Declaration of Rights in Maryland's Constitution proclaims that the document was written "for the sure foundation and more permanent security" for our state.

Neither of these efforts contributes to that goal.

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