We have seen that some of those who object to same-sex marriage have thrown up road blocks by saying that they will have nothing to do with any marriage, same-sex or opposite-sex, and that this means they are not discriminating against same-sex couples and thus they are honoring both Jesus and the law. Of course, they are also not carrying out the duties of their office and, if ordered by the courts to do so, can be found in contempt if they continue to refuse, as has happened in the case of Kim Davis in Kentucky.
This tactic of continuing to refuse to allow all marriages because you don’t like one particular kind has been given legal approval in North Carolina where the legislature has just passed a measure, overriding the governor’s veto, that would allow magistrates to refuse to facilitate any marriages that offend their religious sensibilities but would also then bar them from being involved in any marriages for six months.
The people raising religious objections to same-sex marriage take pains to try and distance themselves from earlier generations of people who objected to mixed-race marriages on religious grounds but the parallels are just too close to make that effort successful. North Carolina has a particularly ugly history with this kind of marriage bigotry and one case demonstrates that this is just a new version of an old story.
In 1967, the US Supreme Court in its landmark ruling in Loving v. Virginia said that bans on inter-racial marriages were unconstitutional. But in 1976, nearly ten years after the ruling, local officials in North Carolina decided that they still wanted no part of it and one couple, Carol Ann Figueroa and Thomas Person, was denied a license. Figueroa describes what happened.
But when we walked into that government office together, we were told that the magistrate on duty wouldn’t give us a marriage license. I was flabbergasted. We had planned everything, we had all our paperwork and we were legally eligible to get married.
So why wouldn’t he marry us? The reason, it turned out, was because Thomas is African-American, and I am white. The magistrate told us that marrying an interracial couple went against his religious beliefs. Our happy day quickly turned into a nightmare.
I was so surprised that a government official was using his own personal religious beliefs to deny us a civil marriage license that I didn’t know what to say. There was a second magistrate on duty, but he, too, said he wouldn’t marry us, because doing so would violate his religious beliefs. One of them took out a Bible and began to lecture us about their religious views and why Thomas and I should not be together. We eventually went down the street to the local Legal Aid office and returned with a lawyer, but the magistrates still refused. It was so upsetting.
I will never forget how painful it was to be told by government officials that they would not give Thomas and me a civil marriage license because of the color of our skin. It was supposed to be a happy day, but instead we were turned away because of somebody else’s religious views and treated like second-class citizens.
So what happened?
Thomas and I eventually did get married, and a court later ruled that those two magistrates violated the law when they refused to marry us, but the pain from that day – when government officials used their own religious beliefs to discriminate against us and keep Thomas and I from marrying each other – will never leave us.
It took three years of litigation for them to get married in the same courthouse that had initially turned them away. Back in June, Amy Davidson prophetically wrote:
There is nothing democratic about government officials looking at a couple and deciding whether they approve of them enough to let them have access to their legal rights.
The Supreme Court may rule, later this month, that there is a right to marriage equality in all fifty states. (Currently, the number is thirty-seven.) If and when it does, the fight may not be over—not until it is clear that the freedom to marry is as real for a couple in any small-town courthouse as it is in the City Clerk’s office in Manhattan. Carol Ann and Thomas Person could have taken a trip somewhere else and had their ceremony, but they held out for Winston-Salem. They have been married for thirty-nine years. They still live in North Carolina.
This is what is going to happen again with same-sex marriage and the Kim Davises of the world and the leeches hanging on to them like Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz are just dragging out the inevitable and exposing to the world the sheer mean-spiritedness of the religious objections to same-sex marriage. The biblical passages that the magistrate apparently quoted to the Persons was from Genesis 6:20 that says “Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.” Yep, from the story of Noah, where god commits the most comprehensive genocide ever. What better example of true morality?
These people are doing more to destroy religion than the most militant atheist could possibly hope to achieve.