Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Opponents of same-sex marriage cracking down on the state level

Republican senator Lee Bright of South Carolina
(Gerry Melendez/The State)

While the nation waits for the Supreme Court to make a decision on whether to make same-sex marriage legal nationwide, several state legislators have begun introducing bills that would prevent state or local government employees from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Republican state legislators, such as those in Oklahoma and South Carolina, are proposing these bills despite federal court rulings that regard bans on same-sex marriages unconstitutional, and that the bills will not only prohibit employees from issuing licenses but also cut the salaries of those who do issue them. Additionally, the state of South Carolina has created a bill that would give government employees the option of opting out of issuing marriage licenses to gay couples based on a “sincerely held religious belief”. Utah and other states have even extended this to include judges, mayors, and county clerks the ability to use this alternative too.

Although supporters of same-sex marriage believe most of these bills are unconstitutional and will likely be shot down, the sponsor of the bill, senator Lee Bright of South Carolina, believes that his bill will, in fact, pass. He defends his position by stating how there currently are existing laws that allow healthcare workers to decline to perform abortions on religious grounds, and that there is no reason why this cannot be applied to government employees and gay marriage as well. It seems that regardless of the decisions federal courts have made, the states will continue to do what they think is right. Roy S. Moore, Alabama’s Supreme Court chief justice, even said that he will continue to uphold Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban as there is nothing in the state’s constitution that gives the federal government the right to “redefine” marriage to include gays and lesbians.

Even though polls have shown an increasing support for same-sex marriage, there are still many that remain opposed due to religious beliefs. Several magistrate judges in North Carolina even quit their jobs when the state approved same-sex marriage. While a majority of states (36 states and the District of Columbia) allow same-sex marriage, and that (I predict) the Supreme Court will most likely rule in favor of same-sex marriage, I believe the fight over marriage will not end anytime soon, and that we as a nation still have a long way to go before same-sex marriage is accepted by all.

Do you think a “sincerely held religious belief” is a valid reason for not giving out marriage licenses to same-sex couples?

Should states abide to federal decisions even if those decisions go against their own constitutions?

In regards to the magistrate judges in North Carolina, many quit because they believed that forcing them to perform civil marriages for same-sex couples when they don’t want to was a violation of their right of religious freedom. Do you think this is considered a violation to their rights? Why or why not?


Anonymous said...

To answer the third question, I do not believe that the rights of magistrates were violated when same-sex marriage became legal. When one talks about rights of religious freedom, one applies it to their own selves. Nobody is allowed to control somebody else's beliefs. A Catholic may practice his/her religion, and a Muslim may practice his/her religion, but neither may force their beliefs onto another. A "sincerely held religious belief" is not a valid excuse for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples. I remember it was mentioned in class that even if you do not believe in war, you may not stop your taxes from funding military spending. The same should apply to same-sex marriages.

Angelia Fontanos said...

I agree with Elena that a "sincerely held religious belief" is not a valid reason to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. As long as you can freely practice your own religion, these kinds of laws are fine. Plus, not everyone believes in the same things you do (religious or not), so it would be unfair to force your personal religious views onto other people.
In response to the second question, the US Constitution is considered the "supreme law of the land" under the supremacy clause of Article Six, so states should abide to federal decisions, even though it may go against their individual constitutions.
For the third question, I don't think that forcing magistrate judges to perform marriage for same-sex couples is in violation of their right to religious freedom. Marriage can be seen from either a religious view or a legal view. Same-sex couples do not have to get married in a church, they could decide to be married in a registry office instead. Also, civil marriages have nothing to do with religion at all.