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Amending the Constitution: What Happens?

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BY VALERIE ORLEANS
From Dateline (May 6, 2004)

Q: When was the last time there was an attempt to amend the Constitution?
   
A:

In the ’80s, there was an attempt with the Equal Rights Amendment. There was a great deal of controversy surrounding that as well. With gay rights, it is even more politicized.

 

   
Q: What happens when states challenge the federal government? It seems like the states would like to retain control.
   
A:

It’s hard for states to challenge the feds. For instance, when the federal government decided that the national speed limit should be 55 miles per hour, some states balked since states set the speed limits. The federal government simply threatened the withholding of federal highway dollars, and the states caved in. The problem is that all the states feed at the federal trough, so it’s difficult for states to take on the federal government.

   

   
Q: So adding an amendment is pretty difficult?
   
A:

Well, historically, it’s not been easy and I think that’s the point. You want people to fully understand the implications, and amending our Constitution shouldn’t be that easy. It provides the basis of our legal system, and while it must change with the times, these changes should be done in a manner that is thoughtful and intelligent.

   

 

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Q&A with Bakken

• Gordon Bakken

• What legal issues are at stake if President Bush succeeds in amending the Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriages?

• What is Article V?

• What is the law of marriage?

• Since standards on morals seem to change, you're concerned when they are used to effect Constitutional changes?

What would a constitutional amendment do to states' rights?

• When was the last time there was an attempt to amend the Constitution?

• What happens when states challenge the federal government? It seems like the states would like to retain control.

• So adding an amendment is pretty difficult?

 
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