Infuriated over the Spread of Same-Sex Marriage, Far-Right Legislators and Their Religious Right Allies Plot Contingency Plans

By Brown, Simon | Church & State, May 2015 | Go to article overview

Infuriated over the Spread of Same-Sex Marriage, Far-Right Legislators and Their Religious Right Allies Plot Contingency Plans


Brown, Simon, Church & State


A group of Texas lawmakers gathered in late February to celebrate what they considered to be an important milestone in their state's history: 10 years since the passage of a constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage.

Seemingly without a sense of irony, these politicians and their allies from the Religious Right group Texas Values came together at the state capitol in Austin to cut a white and pink wedding-esque cake that read "10th Anniversary of 2005 Marriage Act." In attendance were some top state officials, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), who told the assembled crowd that God does not want marriage equality.

"It's a battle, but we will be victorious," Patrick said. "Because with God, who can be against us?"

State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) took things a step further, citing a common Religious Right claim that Christians are being discriminated against in states that are forced by courts to allow same-sex marriage.

"It is not discriminatory, as they want to call it," she cried. "It is actually discriminating against who? Against us! Against our families, our values. They're discriminating against us for honoring our traditional values and believing in God. "

Slowly but surely, marriage equality has become the law of the land in the United States. Just a few years ago, 30 states had constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage. Today, 37 states permit same-sex unions.

But of those 37, 26 were ordered to allow marriage equality by federal courts while only three approved it by popular vote--facts that do not sit well with Religious Right activists.

In response, politically active fundamentalists are determined to enact legislation that would either stop judges from issuing licenses to same-sex couples or permit the owners of for-profit businesses to refuse service to gay couples as long as they cite a religious objection to same-sex unions.

Think of it as kind of a contingency plan: If Religious Right groups can't stop the spread of same-sex marriage in the states, they'll do all they can to gum up the works by giving fundamentalists a "religious freedom" right to legally discriminate against LGBT people.

Texas is a clear leader in the far right's assault on civil rights, as Lone Star State lawmakers filed at least 14 bills targeting LGBT persons for consideration during the 2015 session. A single politician, Rep. Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia), was responsible for three of those bad bills, including one in January that would strip state employees of their salaries and pensions should they "recognize, grant, or enforce a same-sex marriage license."

Bell's proposal would even go so far as to force state courts to rule against anyone who challenges that measure, should it pass. More recently, Bell sought to protect "conscientious objectors," defined as anyone who believes that marriage should be limited to one man and one woman, who refuse to serve LGBT persons in any capacity. HB 3602 is so broad that it could go far beyond shielding clerks who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples by offering legal protection for police, fire fighters or paramedics who will not assist LGBT persons due to a religious objection.

In South Carolina, an unusual proposal popped up in December that would target judges who so much as hear a case related to gay marriage. HB 3022 states that no government official is permitted to recognize same-sex marriage. It also mandates that judges must throw out any case challenging the measure; any judge who does not comply fully with the bill would lose his or her job.

But just to make sure it has all the bases covered, South Carolina is also considering a bill that would call for a constitutional convention to amend the U.S. Constitution in order to prohibit marriage equality on the national level. This, however, may be too much even for the Palmetto State. …

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