Marriage equality may be the law of the land in the United States, but that doesn’t mean the Religious Right has given up on the matter. In fact, a group led by the head of a government religious liberty council thinks all who oppose the ruling should employ “constitutional resistance” and essentially ignore the U.S. Supreme Court.
Last week, a far-right group called the American Principles Project (APP), which supports all of the standard conservative causes (anti-abortion, anti-gay, pro-“religious liberty”), posted a petition on its website that declared the high court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges incompatible with the U.S. Constitution.
“The Court’s majority opinion eschewed reliance on the text, logic, structure, or original understanding of the Constitution, as well as the Court’s own interpretative doctrines and precedents, and supplied no compelling reasoning to show why it is unjustified for the laws of the states to sustain marriage as it has been understood for millennia as the union of husband and wife,” reads the petition.
After carping that the 5-4 decision was handed down “by the narrowest of margins,” the petition cites four claims that supposedly invalidate the Supreme Court majority’s reasoning on marriage equality. These arguments are neither new nor compelling.
First, the APP petition makes the worn-out argument that “traditional marriage” is better for children.
“[S]ociety will be harmed by being denied the right to hold out as normative, and particularly desirable, the only type of human relationship that every society must cultivate for its perpetuation,” says the petition. “This compelling interest is strengthened by the fact that there is strong evidence to support what common sense suggests, namely, that children fare best when raised by their married mother and father…”
Apparently the APP is unaware that same-sex couples are capable of having biological children. The APP is also unfamiliar with studies that debunk the idea that children can’t do well when raised by two men or two women. In fact, the latest research concludes that the gender distribution of a child’s set of parents makes no difference in whether or not they grow up to be well-adjusted adults.
Second, APP said anyone who holds the view that marriage should be limited to one man and one woman “will be vilified, legally targeted, and denied constitutional rights in order to pressure them to conform to the new orthodoxy.”
Wrong again. The Constitution protects the rights of those who oppose marriage equality, including clergy – who cannot be forced to perform any weddings against their will. Yes, Rowan County, Ky., Clerk Kim Davis went to prison for refusing to issue marriage licenses to anyone, but she is a public official who not only refused to do her job, she stopped her subordinates from performing their duties as well. As for business owners, like Aaron and Melissa Klein, they were not forced to condone same-sex weddings. All they had to do was make a cake for a gay couple. They not only refused to do so, they also posted the personal information of that same-sex couple online, leading to a flood of hate mail that forced the pair to move to another state. As a result, the Kleins were hit with a stiff penalty.
While it is possible that those who are against marriage equality will face public backlash, that was already happening even before the Obergefell decision. It’s called free speech.
The APP’s third argument is deeply hypocritical given the organization’s use of the word "dignity" in its mission statement.
“[T]he new jurisprudence of dignity is unlimited in principle and will encourage additional claims to redefine marriage….”
The petition referenced “dignity” because Justice Anthony Kennedy used that word in the majority opinion for Obergefell. Of same-sex couples, he wrote: “They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
Language like that bothers the APP. The group calls on “all federal and state officeholders” to “refuse to accept Obergefell as binding precedent for all but the specific plaintiffs in that case” and to “recognize the authority of states to define marriage, and the right of federal and state officeholders to act in accordance with those definitions.”
The statement goes on to “pledge full and mutual legal and political assistance to anyone who refuses to follow Obergefell for constitutionally protected reasons” and demands “a broad and honest conversation on the means by which Americans may constitutionally resist and overturn the judicial usurpations evident in Obergefell.”
Remarkably, one the signers of this petition is Dr. Robert P. George, founder of the APP and head of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. That organization is supposed to fight for freedom of belief worldwide.
George, who was appointed to the Commission by Speaker of the House John Boehner, certainly seems qualified on paper. He’s on the faculty at Princeton University and has two degrees from Harvard. But his decision to endorse a document calling for this level of defiance to a court ruling shows that his views are increasingly lurching into an extreme zone. George is hardly one to lecture people abroad on the need for tolerance since he seems to lack it himself.
As for APP’s petition – it represents another dying gasp in the Religious Right’s fight to deny dignity to anyone it doesn’t like.