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If Ron Paul is Pro-Constitution, Why The Largent Amendment?

I am confused. Ron Paul’s claimed support for the U.S. Constitution is so central to his campaign that his campaign website today features the phrase “Save the Constitution.”

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution reads in part, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The U.S. Congress has jurisdiction over the District of Columbia in the way that state governments have jurisdiction over states. Having jurisdiction, it passes laws that govern the District of Columbia as specified in the Constitution’s Article I, Section 8:

The Congress shall have power… To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States…

H.R. 2587 was a bill dedicated to “exercise exclusive legislation” over the District of Columbia as specified in the Constitution. During deliberations on H.R. 2587, House Representative Ron Paul voted for the Largent Amendment, which would have added the following language to the bill:

None of the funds contained in this Act may be used to carry out any joint adoption of a child between individuals who are not related by blood or marriage.

The effect of this bill is certainly to “abridge the privileges of citizens of the United States,” since it prohibits funding for adoptions by non-married, non-related couples (long-term bachelors, if you know what I mean) but does not prohibit funding for adoptions by married or related couples. That legislation certainly denies to a “person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” since it singles out particular individuals who are not to receive equal government protection or favor.

A dedicated Ron Paulite might point out that Ron Paul could have voted for this amendment because it turns down spending, and Ron Paul strongly dislikes federal spending. Indeed, the overall bill H.R. 2587 specifically dedicates spending to adoption programs in DC:

Federal Payment for Incentives for Adoption of Children

For a Federal payment to the District of Columbia to create incentives to promote the adoption of children in the District of Columbia foster care system, $8,500,000: Provided, That such funds shall remain available until September 30, 2001 and shall be used in accordance with a program established by the Mayor and the Council of the District of Columbia and approved by the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The appropriate thing to do if one were opposed to the spending would have been to vote against H.R. 2587, which in fairness Ron Paul did. But the Largent Amendment is different. It does not repeal this spending, not one cent of it. It asks, given that $8.5 million will be spent to promote adoption of children in the District of Columbia, shall any of that money be “used to carry out any joint adoption of a child between individuals who are not related by blood or marriage”? The answer, no, establishes government discrimination in its DC adoption program by channeling money that is to be spent toward some people and away from other people. That’s unequal protection, not a question of whether money will be appropriated by the federal government.

Ron Paul in this instance voted for unequal protection, which the U.S. Constitution prohibits. I am perplexed that Ron Paul would do so if he were truly as supportive of the Constitution as he says he is.


By the way, allow me to pre-empt the pro forma appearance of the Ron Paul supporter to say, “Just like these bloggers to take the name of a good man and drag it through the mud. Why do you have to blather on so to denigrate such a paragon of virtue? Oh, the politics of personal destruction! Wail! Gnash! Grrr!”

Oh, get a grip. The man is running for president of the United States of America. Is the consideration of Ron Paul’s constitutional principles inappropriate in the context of a presidential election? Hardly.


8 comments to If Ron Paul is Pro-Constitution, Why The Largent Amendment?

  • well, you do spend a lot of time picking on Ron Paul. in fairness, all elected representatives swear to uphold the constitution. surely you can find and report on a candidate who does a worse job at this than RP.

  • Fluffy

    The District of Columbia is not a state.

    If the 14th Amendment applied to the District of Columbia, its residents could argue that they’re being denied equal protection because they have no representation in the Senate, and because their city government functions at the sufferance of the Congress.

    Laws concerning the District are one of the few areas where the Constitution gives the Congress strikingly wide latitude.

    I think there are definite libertarian grounds for criticizing his vote here, but not terribly strong Constitutionalist grounds.

  • Jim

    Don’t worry, steve, we “pick on” people other than Ron Paul. “Pick on” makes him seem like some poor wayward skinny kid. He’s a presidential candidate, and he is one of the presidential candidates who most uses the word “constitution,” which makes him particularly subject to evaluation according to it.

    Yeah, Fluffy, it’s not a state (I didn’t say it was). And yes, its residents could argue that they’re being denied equal protection because they have no representation in the Senate — as a matter of fact, they have. It’s a place where the Constitution is internally inconsistent. And your bit about “states” is interesting. But that doesn’t negate Ron Paul’s advocacy of unequal protection in the case of adoption.

  • Sara

    The more I look at Ron Paul, the more he looks like a big bigot.

  • Dale Kerns Jr

    Where does the 14th amendment mention anything about D.C.?

  • Revgen

    “Privileges and Immunities” as it’s stated in the constitution has nothing to do with money. It reafirms that state governments cannot infringe on rights afforded to citizens through the US Constitution.

    Federal funds for adoption are not authorized by the constitution. Hence they do not fall under “privileges and immunities”.

    Ron Paul didn’t break from the constitution by supporting the Largent Amendment. Nor did he break from the constitution by voting down the entire bill.

    • Dove

      The privilege is to adopt, and the unequal, discriminatory distribution of federal funds among the privileged class is unconstitutional. It’s hardly a stretch to think the general welfare clause authorizes funding the care of orphans. The 14th amendment is not simply a reaffirmation of the 9th and 10th.

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