Here lately, I’ve been reading some interesting stories of how some far-right extremists (read: hate groups) are “ready to go to jail” in defiance of marriage equality. A few questions arise: Exactly how will they do this? Since a married couple has absolutely nothing to do with their own personal lives, what is their end goal?
Their reaction is, of course, to the decisions that were handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States last week regarding section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.
The entire third statute of DOMA was ruled to be unconstitutional. This clause prevented any federal recognition of same-sex marriage regardless of whether or not a state recognized such unions. The ruling did not expand marriage equality to states that have not legalized such unions, but it did extend federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. It’s a pretty huge deal.
For California’s Proposition 8, the original District Court ruling by Judge Vaughn Walker was allowed to stand. The often-overturned 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was remanded, being told they had no right to hear the appeal of the defenders of Proposition 8. Same-sex marriages resumed in California this weekend after a four-year hiatus.
This brings the total number of states with full marriage equality for gay couples to 13. That’s nearly 100 million people — almost a third of our population who have access to legal marriage for same-sex couples.
For those who have fought against the tide of marriage equality — Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Peter Labarbera of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, and scores of other anti-gay activists — they have lost one of the largest battles in the history of the gay rights movement. Yet, they have lost absolutely nothing:
- They still have the right to complain about how much they hate marriage equality.
- They still have the right to put “scare quotes” around “marriage,” pretending that gays can’t really get married, despite the fact that in 13 states, we can.
- They still have the right to raise money in their fight against marriage equality.
- They still have the right to ignore the real threats of the institution of marriage: divorce, infidelity, and spousal abuse.
- They still have the right to preach that gay sex is a sin.
- They still have the right to say horrible things about gay people, despite the obvious ethical problems of such statements.
- They still have the right to rile their base using all kinds of innuendo, deception, and manipulation to scare blue-haired old ladies out of their social security money to keep the gays from getting “married.” (See how the scare quotes work? Neat, huh!)
- They still have the right to go onto the airwaves to peddle their snake oil “gays can change” to struggling gay adults who hate being gay (Thankfully, though, they’re fast losing the right to subject children and teenagers to such efforts.)
- They still have the right to say a lot of really dumb things. Like how they’re willing to go to jail because they hate gay people so much.
In short, the enemies of marriage equality have lost exactly nothing. Except, of course, the right to complain. No. Wait. They still have that too.
Is baking a cake for a gay wedding really THAT much of a big deal? Selling a bridal gown? Or renting a pair of tuxedoes? Are these people so hell-bent on showing just how much they hate gay people that they’ll refuse to sell paper napkins? Or party favors?
There comes a point where it becomes more obvious than ever that a “stance” is far more about showing how much revulsion you have to a particular class of people instead of “standing for what’s right.”
So we get it. Peter Labarbera and his fellow hate group leaders really, really, really hate the idea of gay people forming loving, committed, monogamous same-sex marriages (after all, he wants to keep complaining that we’re incapable of such unions). To them, we are the ultimate evil. We are the enemy. We are destroying the fabric of the nation. As such, our great “threat” must be resisted at every opportunity.
So, wedding cakes be damned! Christians MUST resist! No wedding cakes for satan! Jesus hates gay wedding cakes! We are willing to go to jail to keep from baking a cake! Meh. I’m running out of slogans.
The obvious silliness behind this mindset can’t be understated enough. No baker will go to jail for refusing to bake a cake. No county clerk will go to jail for refusing to distribute a marriage license for a gay couple. You see, that’s what we call a “civil rights” violation, which is a matter of civil law. Not criminal law.
That’s right, friends. Their wanton puffery and extreme rage in being willing to go to jail — will result in exactly zero jail time. You see, for someone to go to jail, they have to violate criminal law. For example, they need to be charged with trespassing. Or violence. Or otherwise committing a misdemeanor or felony.
Civil rights violations like refusing to take photos or baking a cake are neither a misdemeanor or felony.
Interestingly, this doesn’t matter to our right wing friends. A few weeks ago, a couple hundred people and groups signed onto a declaration that they would somehow resist marriage equality with everything they have (as if this were a surprise). Their fear is that the government will become a police state to enforce the provision that gays be allowed to get married:
Experience and history have shown us that if the government redefines marriage to grant a legal equivalency to same-sex couples, that same government will then enforce such an action with the police power of the State. This will bring about an inevitable collision with religious freedom and conscience rights. We cannot and will not allow this to occur on our watch. Religious freedom is the first freedom in the American experiment for good reason.’
Or is it that their fear that a police state will coerce them to bake a cake? I’ve heard and read statements from all of the usual suspects. Since they all say pretty much the same thing, I’ll limit to one example for the sake of time. Matt Barber, vice president of Liberty Counsel (a group of right wing attorneys who were spitting nails because they didn’t get to defend Proposition 8), said this:
Do I really believe American Christians will be burned at the stake over counterfeit “gay marriage”? No. Do I believe Christians will face real persecution, such as loss of livelihood, civil penalties, physical abuse or even jail? Absolutely.
Of course, that was after gleefully posting what an “attorney friend” said:
In my 35 years as a Christian, I never seriously believed we might end up in prison for our faith – except, perhaps, for something like a pro-life demonstration. This is the first time it seriously occurs to me that the trajectory of the nation is such that it is possible in five to 10 years. Oddly, this thought does not discourage or scare me; in fact, it’s almost a joyful thought that we might have the privilege to suffer for our faith. Rejoice greatly when men revile and persecute you for my name’s sake, for your reward is great in Heaven. (h/t, Joe)
They really, really, don’t want to bake a cake, apparently. Their concern of “loss of livelihood” is telling — this isn’t something that would happen by legal action. Rather, it’s what would happen if a community decides to support or not to support the actions of a particular baker/florist/photographer. We’ve seen it time and again where a florist gets paraded as “heroes for the faith” because they refused to cut a bouquet for a gay wedding.
But hey, it’s free market. The civil fines from the violations they might get depending on that state’s civil rights laws are a different issue — but they’re still not criminal fines. Even here in Tennessee, if I decided to refuse to sell a set of business cards to a black man because he’s black, then I could be held up with civil rights violations (and rightfully so). I could be sued (and rightfully so) and forced to pay an ungodly figure for damages (and rightfully so). But I would not see one moment inside of a jail cell. Unless, of course, I decided to assault said black man during the process.
Of course, I would never do such a thing. Racism is a vile, wicked thing. I wouldn’t be nearly as upset over community reaction to such behavior as I would to my own inner person — I would make myself sick that I would do something like that. Because, you see, when you view people as human beings that are equal in every way, such behavior is far, far removed from your core morality.
Which is precisely the point for Matt Barber and the hundreds of people who have signed on to the notion that they will resist marriage rights at all cost: It’s much easier to paint yourself as a hero when you view your enemies as less than human. In the end, it’s quite obvious that they are not being persecuted for “righteousness” when they’re really just behaving like jerks.