Professor's Op-Ed Stirs Debate
Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 02:01
Georgetown University Law Center Professor Louis Michael Seidman ignited a media firestorm after writing an op-ed about the pitfalls of strict constitutional obedience for The New York Times published Dec. 30.
The article, called “Let’s Give Up on the Constitution,” has garnered at least 17 response articles and an article published Dec. 31 on news website The Daily Caller has generated 769 comments. Seidman, the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Constitutional Law at the Georgetown University Law Center, has also appeared on Fox News and National Public Radio following the op-ed’s publication.
Seidman, who taught a seminar on the Fourteenth Amendment at the Law Center last semester, said that he was amazed by the vocal reaction his piece has received.
“I did not expect to get over a thousand emails,” he said. “I’m surprised and delighted that people are paying attention to it. I hope it’s caused at least some people to think about a problem that’s not much discussed.”
In particular, the op-ed discusses the consequences of following what Seidman calls “archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions.”
Seidman said that although there are some tenets of the Constitution such as equality and liberty that are generally accepted, they do not help solve any of the contentious issues the United States faces today, including gay marriage and abortion.
“There are much more specific provisions in the Constitution that settle disputes but there the question is why we ought to be bound by a settlement that was annunciated by people who lived several centuries ago and who don’t know anything about the way our country functions now,” he said. “It just doesn’t seem like it makes any sense to use their preferences as a basis for running our country.”
Seidman emphasized that the criticisms in his op-ed are not confined to a particular political party.
“People on the right and the left ought to stop telling Americans that this is what you have to think because somebody said you had to think this 200 years ago,” he said. “We as a people have a right to decide for ourselves what we think about issues like gay marriage and affirmative action.”
According to Seidman, shifting the country’s adherence to the Constitution requires looking beyond the law itself.
“What’s needed is not so much a change in statute but a change in our culture,” he said. “[What we need to say is] maybe it is unconstitutional. So what? Why can’t we talk about the merits of this instead of what people thought about it 200 years ago?”
But Seidman admitted that concerns about the Constitution are multi-faceted.
“This is a complicated question and there’s more than one side to it,” he said.