The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

August 25, 2013

Alabama's ancient Constitution remains the same


Associated Press

The Anniston Star on another stab at fixing state Constitution:

If nothing else, Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, is a practical man.

He saw a problem — a state Constitution that is holding Alabama back in oh so many ways — and wanted to change it.

However, he understood there were many who liked the 1901 Constitution as it is. Though the document may hold back the state, it grants certain groups benefits they do not want to lose. Those groups may have different agendas but they are united in their desire to prevent a constitutional rewrite that might affect them.

Therefore, the only practical way to revise the Constitution was to change only those things on which there was a consensus for change or which no one particularly cared about. To do this, Marsh and his allies created the 16-member Constitutional Revision Committee, which would slowly amend the antiquated document. ...

Plunging ahead, the commission changed what the Constitution said about telegraph lines and railroads (big deals in 1901, not so much today). It ran into a roadblock when it tried to remove the racist language that authors put there in 1901 because racism was what motivated them in the first place.

Because everyone seemed to feel the language should go, it looked like a slam-dunk. ...

So the commission rewrote the proposal to take out the racist language as well as the language that offended earlier opponents. Then those who had supported the first proposal rallied to defeat the second effort.

Marsh can’t buy a break.

Today, the racist language remains.