Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Rights and Protections, Part 2 -or- The People Who Bug Me

A postscript of sorts to the day’s Big News From The Supremes (or at least two-thirds of them)…

A good friend of mine posted online, earlier today, suggesting that she was tiring of reading posts and press statements from various people, who were not supportive of the Supreme Court’s marriage-equality decision, that featured the skilled use of complaining. (She phrased it differently and more succinctly; using a reference that a smaller subset of our universe would grasp immediately.)

After the decision was handed down, swiftly from out’ the larger world of Bigger Names the complaining did appear.

It’s not the Josh Robinsons of the world who really bug me.

Although I will say, it was more than a bit jarring to read this young gentleman’s Tweet: a not-especially-well-logicked one which compared same-sex marriage to pedophilia and child molestation. In our current public-discourse environment, not surprising, but still arresting. Being that this is a country endued with Free Speech, it was inevitable that somebody, a highly-paid professional athlete or similar public figure, would Tweet something out like that, which would then go viral because of its author’s celebrity.

[Ed. note: I happen to know a pair of same-sex couples, who each have adopted at least one child, whose relationships and parenting tactics, I am quite sure, would never in a million years remotely resemble anything but what they are: loving parents just trying to bring up decent kids in an often-indecent world, caring for each other and their children because that’s what good parents do, no matter who they are. Weirdly, this is not the point of this post; but I felt it very important to point out, at least parenthetically. Because maybe Mr. Robinson isn’t lucky enough to be able to observe how non-disastrous it can be. Maybe he just doesn’t know any same-sex parenting couples personally. Yet. Or maybe he does, and just doesn’t know it. … Yet.]

(Also: maybe I don’t live in the right part of the world, or follow that corner of American pop culture closely enough … but before this afternoon, I didn’t know that Tweeter Josh Robinson of the Minnesota Vikings was cornerback Josh Robinson of the Minnesota Vikings. Now I do. In a tiny way, I think he’s gained more than I have from this transaction. Which is sad. For me, at least.)

So, Josh Robinson pulled a “complain, complain, complain” … and predictably, some of the online world praised him, and some of the online world condemned him. And, give or take a Vikings pink slip (not a certain thing by any stretch), Mr. Robinson will impact my life, and the lives of the people who now are allowed legally to get married, not a bit. And life will continue forward. He’s got celebrity, and notoriety, and a slightly more public platform from which to pontificate; but no particular power over me or my friends, really.

So, in the grand scheme … whatever.

It is, however, the Jim Hoods and Ken Paxtons of the world that bug me.

Jim Hood is the Mississippi attorney general. Very soon after the Supreme Court handed down its decision today, his office released two statements.

On his Facebook page: “The Office of the Attorney General is certainly not standing in the way of the Supreme Court’s decision. We simply want to inform our citizens of the procedure that takes effect after this ruling. The Supreme Court decision is the law of the land and we do not dispute that.”

Except, as described in his press release:

The Supreme Court’s decision is not effective immediately in Mississippi.

It will become effective in Mississippi, and circuit clerks will be required to issue same-sex marriage licenses, when the 5th Circuit lifts the stay of Judge Reeves’ order.

This could come quickly or may take several days.

The 5th Circuit might also choose not to lift the stay and instead issue an order, which could take considerably longer before it becomes effective.”

So, AG Hood is using whatever legal tactics he has at his disposal to carry out a letter-of-the-law version of “dragged kicking and screaming”.

(Whether he actually has those tactics to use … is debatable; the Supreme Court ruling read, in part: “The Court, in this decision, holds same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all States. It follows that the Court also must hold – and it now does hold – that there is no lawful basis for a state to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another State on the grounds of its same-sex character.” And the day when a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stay actually does trump a Supreme Court decision will be a Constitutionally touchy day. But anyway…)

Meanwhile, Ken Paxton is the Texas attorney general. He’s being dragged kicking and screaming, too. He released this press statement today:

Today’s ruling by five Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court marks a radical departure from countless generations of societal law and tradition. The impact of this opinion on our society and the familial fabric of our nation will be profound. Far from a victory for anyone, this is instead a dilution of marriage as a societal institution.

What is most disturbing is the extent to which this opinion is yet another assault on the actual text of the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law itself. Just as Roe v. Wade ripped from the hands of the American people the issue of life and placed it in the judge-made ‘penumbras’ of the Constitution, so has this opinion made clear that our governing document – the protector of our liberties through representative government – can be molded to mean anything by unelected judges.

But no court, no law, no rule, and no words will change the simple truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Nothing will change the importance of a mother and a father to the raising of a child. And nothing will change our collective resolve that all Americans should be able to exercise their faith in their daily lives without infringement and harassment.

We start by recognizing the primacy and importance of our first freedom – religious liberty. The truth is that the debate over the issue of marriage has increasingly devolved into personal and economic aggression against people of faith who have sought to live their lives consistent with their sincerely-held religious beliefs about marriage. … This ruling will likely only embolden those who seek to punish people who take personal, moral stands based upon their conscience and the teachings of their religion.

It is not acceptable that people of faith be exposed to such abuse. …

Our guiding principle should be to protect people who want to live, work and raise their families in accordance with their religious faith. … Shortly, my office will be addressing questions about the religious liberties of clerks of court and justices of the peace.

Displays of hate and intolerance against people of faith should be denounced by all people of good will and spark concern among anyone who believes in religious liberty and freedom for all.

Despite this decision, I still have faith in America and the American people. We must be vigilant about our freedom and must use the democratic process to make sure America lives up to its promise as a land of freedom, religious tolerance and hope.

So, AG Paxton’s take is somewhat different. Hot on the heels of, “well okay, that’s the (flawed) ruling then” … comes the distinct air of “this ain’t over yet”.  Maybe it’s a Texas thing … maybe it’s just a Ken Paxton thing … but most of his press releases about Court decisions or other legislation he opposes contain a sentence or two to the effect that we’re going to fight this, don’t you worry your pretty little head.

In this press statement, it’s five paragraphs’ worth of a public official camouflaging ideological petulance behind expressions of faith and support for “religious liberty”. He appears to fundamentally miscast “religious liberty” as not a shield against people keeping him from worshiping as he pleases but as a sword to be wielded against those who do not conform to his beliefs.

Not only is Paxton hiding behind those expressions of piety and concern for the faithful, but he’s folding them into a diatribe about how his faith is under assault from all sides. “Displays of hate and intolerance against people of faith” are cast as boogeymen, and tacitly (but no less clearly) those displays are cast as coming from people who support marriage between members of the same gender.

[Ed. note: I might also suggest that Paxton uses an argument that turns a complete 180 degrees from what seems to me the actual genesis of the marriage equality movement. My sense is that the “debate” over the issue of marriage has increasingly devolved into personal and economic aggression against same-sex couples who have sought to live their lives merely as participants in the institution of marriage. Perhaps a post for another time.]

The arguments of Paxton and Hood, and perhaps people like Robinson as well, for that matter, are based on a “faith” grounded in self-centeredness, rather than in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Love others as you would love yourself, except if they make you feel icky. My way, or the highway.

But by contrast with a professional football player, who only has the celebrity influence accorded to him by (fleeting) fame or popularity which he can only hope has some effect on his fans … Attorneys General have political and civic power that they can and do wield over all of the people in the states in which they serve.

On top of which, these two particular AGs seem to be holding desperately to the notion that they are within their rights, in one way or another, to defy the rulings of the US Supreme Court. (And I don’t find it difficult to imagine that they would bring the full effect of their political power to bear on anyone who protested or defied a Supreme Court ruling that they, or their faith, or their devotion to “religious liberty”, did support or agree with.)

Those are the kind of people who still bug me – and worry me: the ones for whom it is unclear what limits they feel their instruments of pushback may or may not have.

June 26, 2015 Posted by | celebrity, civil rights, current events, government, news, politics, religion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment