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Hullabaloo


Saturday, June 27, 2015

 

Hearts still need to be opened

by Tom Sullivan

In "the land of the free," the fight for equality is far from over.

In a 5-4 decision yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges  that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in all 50 states. We won't dwell this morning on the particulars of Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority decision, nor on Justice Antonin Scalia's bitter dissent, but rather on what comes next.

Marriage equality victory rally last night in Asheville, NC. 

At the victory rally in Asheville, NC last night, social justice activists addressed the crowd:

"It's extraordinary," said the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. "There are people who have been waiting their whole lives to marry the person they love, and now they are equal under the law. Think about the families racing to the courthouse in Mississippi right now. I'm overwhelmed by the emotion and historical significance of this. It took decades and decades of work to get to this moment."

Now, about Mississippi ...

All things old are new again

After the ruling, I emailed a friend with the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE is based in Asheville, NC) and asked how soon he would be out of a job. Not anytime soon. Just because SCOTUS ruled that states must allow same-sex marriages doesn't mean they will any more than Brown v. Board of Education  meant states would integrate their schools. In some places, that took federal troops. And wouldn't you know, some of the same Brown v. Board  holdouts are balking again?

In Mississippi and Louisiana, the states’ respective attorneys general cited different reasons as to why the court’s decision does not yet immediately apply.

In Louisiana, Attorney General James D. “Buddy” Caldwell called the Supreme Court’s ruling “yet another example of … federal government intrusion into what should be a state issue.”

Nothing in the court’s decision makes its order effective immediately, Caldwell’s office said in a statement posted on its website. Louisiana voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2004 that banned same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Once again, dissenters are invoking "states' rights."

Mississippi is considering not issuing marriage licenses at all:

As the state's governor and lieutenant governor condemned the court’s decision, state House Judiciary Chairman Andy Gipson began studying ways to prevent gay marriage in Mississippi. Governor Phil Bryant said he would do all he can "to protect and defend the religious freedoms of Mississippi.” To Bryant’s point of doing “all” the state could do, Gipson, who is a Baptist minister, suggested removing marriage licenses entirely.

“One of the options that other states have looked at is removing the state marriage license requirement,” Gipson told The Clarion-Ledger, a local newspaper. “We will be researching what options there are. I personally can see the pros and cons to that. I don’t know if it would be better to have no marriage certificate sponsored by the state or not. But it’s an option out there to be considered.”

All others need not apply

Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn told the Clarion-Ledger:

"As Christians, we are to speak the truth in love," Gunn said. "But we are not to shy away from speaking the truth, even though the truth may be unpopular or not embraced by the culture around us. This decision is in direct conflict with God's design for marriage as set forth in the Bible. The threat of this decision to religious liberty is very clear. I pledge to protect the rights of Christian citizens to teach and operate on the basis of Christian conviction."

Evidently, requiring people wanting to marry to first obtain government approval was not in direct conflict with God's design nor a threat to religious liberty until yesterday.

(L to R) Carmen Ramos-Kennedy, Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Lindsey Simerly of Campaign for Southern Equality.

At the Asheville celebration last night, CSE's Carmen Ramos-Kennedy addressed the crowd in the shadow of a monument to the state's Civil War governor. People wonder why a straight, black woman joined the effort to secure marriage equality, she said, holding back tears. Because it was not so long ago that she would not have been able to marry her husband. Ramos-Kennedy's husband is white.

President Obama's eulogy in Charleston yesterday for the slain Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney spoke of the "uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society." We must not "settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change -- that’s how we lose our way again," the president said.

Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history -- we haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.” (Applause.) What is true in the South is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other. That my liberty depends on you being free, too. (Applause.) That history can’t be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past -- how to break the cycle. A roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind -- but, more importantly, an open heart.

Campaign for Southern Equality heads to Mississippi next week. There is still hard work to be done and hearts there still needing to be opened.