Alabama has sent a minister to jail for 30 days for defying a local judge and marrying a lesbian couple. Irish voters support marriage equality in a landslide, but marriage could still start in America before they start in Ireland. And one more study shows support for equality on the rise.
Anti-equality groups love to claim that religious officials will be punished for speaking out against marriage equality. But for some reason, they don’t seem to want to talk about Anne DePrizio, a Unitarian minister in Alabama who was sentenced to 30 days in jail last month for her stance on marriage.
After a federal court ruled that Alabama’s marriage ban was unconstitutional, Anne conducted a marriage for two women at a probate office. A local judge ordered her to stop, but she defied him and obeyed for the federal ruling. Her punishment for refusing to vacate the office: thirty days in jail, sixth months probation, and a $250 fine.
Just to be clear: this is an actual example of a religious official who has been sent to jail for exercising her religious beliefs. It is the very thing that the opposition has been claiming will happen to them. And yet none of them are coming to Anne’s defense. Weird.
Meanwhile, across the globe: Congratulations to Ireland, the first country in the world to legalize marriage equality by a popular vote. Well, kind of — it hasn’t been legalized yet. Voters overwhelming supported marriage equality in a referendum last week, but now legislators have to draft a constitutional amendment to reflect the vote. That should happen sometime this summer, and then the order will be signed before the end of the year.
So, what does that mean for the U.S.? Well, it means that now Ireland and America are in a race for marriage to start. We’ll get a ruling from the Supreme Court in June, and if it’s favorable, then marriage could start sometime in the next few months. But if it’s unfavorable, it could take a decade or more to undo.
Finally this week, a new survey from Gallup shows marriage support continuing to rise. No big surprises here, though the jump is big: we’re up seven percentage points in the last year. This is about where Ireland was just a few years ago.
Texas is setting itself up for a showdown with the Supreme Court. A bill to defy the court’s rulings died in the House last week, but anti-gay politicians could find a sneaky way to revive it. Meanwhile, the Attorney General of Texas refuses to say if he’ll obey the Supreme Court’s ruling in June.
Legislators in Texas nearly passed a bill that would have forced the state to defy the Supreme Court last week. But the deadline passed before they could hold a vote, which means the bill’s off the table, for now. If it had passed, it would have withheld funding from government offices that obeyed a pro-equality ruling from the Supreme Court.
That could never have withstood a lawsuit. States simply don’t get to decide which Supreme Court rulings they want to follow. What’s scary is that it an obviously unconstitutional bill even made it this far — and may still come back. Bill sponsor Cecil Bell says that he might find a way to attach it to some other bill that’s still alive. So we’re not out of the woods yet.
And there’s another dangerous bill that DID pass, but it’s getting less attention. That’s SB2065, which contains a hidden trojan horse for discrimination. Supporters claim that the bill lets members of the clergy refuse to conduct marriages that violate their conscience. But if that were true, there would be no need for the bill. Religious officials already have the freedom to refuse certain marriages. What the bill actually does is extend that exemption to public officials who have religious affiliations.
So for example, if a city was the hire a minister as justice of the peace, even though he’s serving in a government role, he’d be allowed to let his religious rules override the rules of his job. Couples could be turned away from government offices with no recourse. The bill passed the Senate last week, and missed its chance for a vote in the House, but like the other bill could always come back as an amendment.
There are nearly two dozen anti-gay bills working their way through the Texas legislature right now. Many, like Cecil Bell’s attempt to defy the Supreme Court, are clearly illegal. But Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says he’ll defend them anyway. What’s more, Paxton refused to say whether he would obey Supreme Court orders to allow marriage equality in the state. That could be setting up a showdown between the Supreme Court’s orders and the State of Texas’s refusal, and it’s hard to say who would win. Just kidding, the Supreme Court would win. Eventually. But the last time there was a showdown like this, it took some unpleasant work to sort it out.
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