I guarantee you, if we could go dig up James Madison and say, "Mr. Madison, did you intend for the Constitution to say people of the same sex could get married?" And I guarantee you he would have the reaction, "What are you talking about? Are you sure you're asking me about the Constitution?"As luck would have it, I ran into James Madison just a few days ago. (How is that possible, you ask? I don't know, voodoo or something. Who cares?) Obviously, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to show President Madison what Limbaugh had said and ask for his thoughts. He was happy to oblige, so he caught himself up on the major legal and societal developments of the last two centuries and got back to me the next day. Here's what he said:
"My first thoughts, I must admit, were precisely as Mr. Limbaugh predicted: 'What are you talking about? Are you sure you're asking me about the Constitution?' Research revealed that he was not, in fact, talking about the federal Constitution. The Iowa ruling was based on state law, so presumably he was talking about the Iowa Constitution, which I did not write. Perhaps he was thinking of James Grimes, the governor when their constitution was ratified in 1857. An understandable mistake—people used to confuse me with Monroe all the time.
"That said, I'm quite intrigued by his question: 'Did you intend for the Constitution to say people of the same sex could get married?' I'll pretend he's referring to the Constitution I wrote, because I see that a federal judge in California recently issued a similar ruling based on that Constitution, and also I don't give a shit about Iowa. But I'm still not clear on what, exactly, Mr. Limbaugh is asking. Does he want to know what my opinion would've been in 1789, or what it is in 2010?
"In 1789, we're talking about a society where slavery is legal and only male landowners can vote. So, yeah, I think gay marriage might've been unpopular in 1789. You know what else might've been unpopular in 1789? Every single thing the federal government has done since 1790.
"In 2010, we're talking about a society where everything I see is weird and scary and baffling. I mean, I'm sitting here looking around and I saw, like, none of this coming. Oh, wait, that's the one thing I did see coming—that the future would be unpredictable. And guess what? We freaking planned for it! We threw in an amendment procedure—and I see you guys have been using it. Virtually everything I've read about same-sex marriage as it relates to the federal Constitution—you know, the one I wrote—references the Fourteenth Amendment, which, like the Iowa Constitution, I did not write, in part because I was dead.
"As for same-sex marriage…I don't know. Sounds pretty out there. Marriage, as I understand it, is a sacred, life-long bond between one man and one or more women of the same race. And yet, according to an unfathomably thorough electronic encyclopaedia I just discovered and learned how to use, Mr. Limbaugh has been thrice divorced. Thrice! And remarried a fourth time! You know how many wives I had? Yeah, about three less than four. Now, interestingly enough, the same encyclopaedia reminds me that my own wife was, in fact, married twice. Because she get divorced? No, of course not—the first guy died of yellow fever. Nobody got divorced back then. Yellow fever was our divorce.
"Things, apparently, have changed. And to be honest, I'm torn as to whether things have changed for the better. On one hand—let's say, for no particular reason, the right hand—21st century America is terrifying. The federal government has grown about a million times larger than I could ever have foreseen, dangerous maniacs have access to deadly weapons, the many nations have entered into some sort of sinister union, and everywhere I look I see women walking around half-naked, like it's the most natural thing in the world.
"On the other hand—which, by default, would be the left—21st century America has a lot going for it. Even the lowliest workers have reasonable hours and decent pay, people are living longer than ever, different classes, cultures, and races co-exist in relative harmony, and everywhere I look I see women walking around half-naked, like it's the most natural thing in the world.
"In other words, there's a lot to digest. So I hope you'll forgive me if, for the time being, I refrain from making a judgment on same-sex marriage one way or the other.
"But that's not even the point. This is the point. I understand that I'm kind of a big deal around here, and, believe me, I'm humbled. Wait, no, I'm not humbled—I should be a big deal. I wrote the damn Constitution, for Christ's sake! So please, keep talking about me. Talk about my ideas, my principles, my vision for America. Talk about what I had in mind when I wrote the Constitution. That's what I want. Why do you think Hamilton, Jay, and I wrote the Federalist Papers? Our own amusement?
"But don't speak for me. I don't care if you're the host of a popular radio show or just, say, some guy in Florida with an obscure, albeit funny and insightful, web-log. Only one person knows where I stand on the constitutional questions facing 21st century America, and that is me. To claim otherwise—to claim to have some magical ability to know my views on something I've never even thought about—is as insulting as it is absurd.
"You don't know me, Mr. Limbaugh, you know yourself. You only talk about me because you want to tap into the respect and stature I worked so hard to earn, and use it to amplify the volume of your own opinions. You're using my name as nothing more than a megaphone, and I'd like you to stop.
"Anyway, I don't know why this didn't occur to me sooner, but why the hell is the government involved in licensing marriage in the first place?"
And with that, he was gone. Off to explore the modern world's many curiosities—Rush Limbaugh's nonsense suddenly the last thing on his mind. Thank you, President Madison, for your thoughts.
1. I can't emphasize enough how impressed I was with Madison's grasp of the language. Almost immediately, he picked up on my modern dialect and adapted his speech accordingly, saving you—the reader—the chore of trying to decipher an endless stream of odd-sounding sentence constructions and old-timey idioms.