A whole bunch of us queer folk, our organizations, our allies, family, and friends fought hard for decades for the simple, basic, human right to marry.

 

On June 26th, 2015, we thought we had finally attained that right for all time, in all 50 states, in federal eyes, in all U.S. territories, possessions, and protectorates, via the landmark civil rights Supreme Court ruling in the case Obergefell v. Hodges, upholding our constitutional right to marriage through the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses.

 

But did we? For all time?

 

I will never forget that Friday two and a half years ago. My spouse and I were down visiting my parents…..ironically, June 26th is their wedding anniversary…..when the news came. It felt like we were walking on air. We opened EXTRA Champagne, the real French stuff, even (our last bottle of Pommery Cuvee Louise Brut Millesime 1999!).

 JaimieHileman17
The only moment I’d ever experienced anything remotely like this was the feeling in 2013 (also on June 26th!) as we were just crossing the Golden Gate bridge driving from Sonoma into San Francisco, when we heard the news that the Supreme Court had just struck down DOMA (Defense Of Marriage Act) and Proposition 8 (California ban on marriage equality).

 

We got to our favorite artsy/funky little hotel in the Lower Haight, just north of the Castro, and in the tiny art deco lobby, they’d already chalked out a giant welcome in rainbow colors to a “neighborhood block party” in celebration. The concierge said she and her wife were going….we did too. I struggle to describe what that event was like, 30,000 of us and allies, on Castro Street, ad hoc and impromptu, celebrating the right of marriage. It was like Pride, May Day in Russia, New Year’s in Times Square, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and the best birthday you’ve ever had, all rolled up into one giant celebratory moveable feast. Everyone you met was already your friend. Complete strangers came up and offered kisses, hugs, shoulders to cry tears of sheer joy upon. The oxytocin in the air was palpable and almost as intoxicating as the 1.5 liter boxes of cheap but cold white wine we drank in the street.

 

But here we are, in February 2018, in a different nation.

 

This isn’t that America, not anymore.

 

The norms of governance, the law, and our national security have been spit and trampled upon contemptuously by white cis het men who are certain they’re smarter, richer, and better than we are.

 

This is Trumpistan.

 

Our new overlords do not respect our right to marry, nor do they wish to continue legal recognition of our marriages, nor to acknowledge the more than 1,000 legal rights and benefits that come with marriage.

 

Here’s what the effort to chip away, hollow out, undermine, or otherwise denigrate our marriages looks like now.

 

1. Chipping - removing some of the legal protections, rights, and benefits of marriage to same gender couples, bit by bit.

 

We see an example of this from Texas, July ’17. In a significant setback for marriage equality, the nine-member, all-Republican Texas Supreme Court allowed the denial, for now, of spousal benefits for government employees in same gender marriages.

 

This will have to be resolved in the Supreme Court.

 

2. Hollowing out - the new version of this strategy has two popular forms, RFRA and FADA legislation, both very similar.

 

RFRA is “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”. The belief here is that a law prohibiting the free and unfettered pursuit of religious practice and belief is unconstitutional via First Amendment rights. This is a claim by Christian groups that if LGBTQIA+ people are allowed to marry, that violates their belief that God ordained marriage to exist only between one man and one woman. Or in other words, their right to discriminate and harm LGBTQIA+ folk is necessary to practice their version of Christianity under free expression language.

 

FADA is “First Amendment Defense Act”. It’s quite similar, stipulating that marriage equality prima facie violates Christian First Amendment rights to discriminate against LGBTQIA+ on a religious basis. Interestingly, it is opposed by some Christian groups FOR THE SAME REASONING; they claim inclusion and acceptance are essential to THEIR Christian beliefs, and removing marriage equality or degrading it would negatively affect their 1A rights.

 

If passed there would be a ripple effect as new instances of religious based discrimination hit the courts, from bakers and florists to Christian auto mechanics, accountants, and acrobats.

 

21 states currently have RFRA laws, but 19 pre-date Obergefell, so only two have an anti-LGBTQIA+ focus, Arkansas and Indiana. Ten other states are considering RFRA legislation. (Source: NCSL, the National Conference of State Legislatures)

 

3. Executive Order - the “religious liberty” executive order that the current occupant signed on May 4th, 2017 effectively gave federal officials “carte blanche” to subjugate reproductive and LGBT rights to the interests of those seeking to diminish those rights in the name of religion. Marriage Equality and women’s right to bodily autonomy are equally attacked in this order. I highly recommend this article by Julianna S. Gonen, Policy Director for NCLR (National Center for Lesbian Rights).

 

4. “Poisoned Pill” legislation/lawsuits - this is just so out there, waaaaaaay past the “Twilight Zone” and even “Black Mirror” that I can scarcely believe I feel obligated to include this anti-marriage equality strategy. These bills/suits would create situations both legally tenuous and absurd, but that would also create doubt and uncertainty in the enforcement of marriage equality legal protections when violated. Here’s a case from Texas (of course, Texas), a suit filed just last month.

 

“The lawsuit…..is among at least 15 similar petitions filed nationwide by {religious} activists, including Chris Sevier, a former Austin resident now living in Dallas who has been bounced out of several courts for trying to marry his laptop — a computer that led him to sue Apple Inc., unsuccessfully, for not protecting him from an internet porn addiction that ruined his marriage.” His suit is not likely to proceed. Full article here.

 

Another example is legislative, from South Carolina (the usual suspects). South Carolina legislators introduced 2/15 a House bill amending the state’slegal definition of marriage.

 

The “Marriage and Constitution Restoration Act” creates a distinction between what its supporters see as “marriage” and what is considered “parody marriage.”


According to this bill, “parody marriage”would mean any form of marriage that does not involve one man and one woman. “Marriage” would henceforth mean only a union of one man and one woman. LGBTQIA+ folk would lose legal recognition of their marriages in South Carolina. Even if this passes, it’ll have a constitutionality challenge slapped on it so fast, these pasty-faced white cis het boys’ heads will spin, and it wouldn’t get past the first federal court.

 

These are only some of the strategies and tactics the enemies of marriage equality and LGBTQIA+ civil rights will continue to deploy until new legislation/case law precedent stops the BS. By no means are these all of the methodologies used against us, and we can expect new attacks as well.

 

This is why we as a community MUST support the organizations that fight for us in statehouses and courts, orgs like Lambda Legal, TLC (Transgender Law Center), NCLR (National Center for Lesbian Rights), the ACLU, and our own Missouri state organization, PROMO, whom I joined today in Jefferson City for their annual ‘LGBTQ Lobby Day’.

 

The fight isn’t over.

 

Long term, we know we will win.

 

Education and engagement will beat hatred, fear, and ignorance.

 

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice". -Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.&-Rev. Theodore Parker, UU

 

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