Same Sex Marriage; The Battle Continues

July 13, 2015

GOP Texas Judge Will Only Marry Same-Sex Couples If They Sign a Form Saying He’d Rather Not is the headline from a short report by Caitlin Cruz for Talking Points Memo. Denton County Judge James DePiazza told a television station

It’s my personal belief that individuals who want to conduct a marriage ceremony understand my convictions. If it was me, I would prefer to have someone who was in agreement with me.

I’m suspect Judge DePiazza’s religious beliefs form the basis for his position. I’ll allow for the possibility that he just wants a defense against someone who runs to his Religious Right in the next election, claiming he’s a bad man for marrying “those people.” One way or another, religion is behind this thing.

About religion the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … .” There’s an inherent tension between these two clauses. If I can’t make the people say a prayer at the beginning of a public meeting, I may think someone is limiting my right to freely exercise my religion. If the public meeting is, say, a town council meeting, others who do not share my religious views may believe a governmental religion has been established. Real case: read MRW’s take on Town of Greece v. Galloway here.

Congress got into the mix when it adopted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Remember Hobby Lobby, where we went from Governor Mitt Romney’s “corporations are people, my friend” to Subchapter S corporations can have religious beliefs. (Details from MRW are here and here.) The RFRA provided the legal support for Hobby Lobby’s successful claim that a health insurance plan which provides its employees with contraceptives interferes with its religious beliefs. (When an “its” has religious beliefs, we’ve wandered far afield. Just sayin’!)

That all said, I have heard no credible argument, anywhere, that a public servant’s religious beliefs provide any basis for not applying laws fully and completely, without regard for personal beliefs. That is simply not a part of the mix.

Note my use of the word credible. In Texas Royce County Clerk Joyce Lewis Kugle resigned, stating

Before taking office, I was required to take an oath to uphold the laws of this State and the United States. Due to the recent decision by the Supreme Court, the laws I swore to have now changed.

Other clerks in other places have also resigned. Here’s a summary from Kristine Marsh.

Unfortunately, others with direct roles in following the law of the land—men who should know better—have violated their oaths of office. For example, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore—removed from office once and reelected—has counseled non-compliance repeatedly. And then there’s Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, actively telling government employees they can ignore the law of the land. (Here from Time on June 29 is Texas Attorney General Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling.)

For a rad-lib guy like me, this acting out by conservatives is disorienting. In my universe, when the U.S. Supreme Court talks—like noted capitalist E.F. Hutton—people listen.

Blame here is not partisan. President Bill Clinton signed the RFRA into law. And somewhere, somehow, we elevated the individual at the expense of all us. Now, sadly, we’re stuck. I commend the clerks who have quit. I don’t share their beliefs, but I laud their understanding of their role as public servants, charged with following the land of the land. And a pox on elected officials, mostly men and many of them attorneys, who make a mockery of our profession and the oaths they have taken.

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