Despite gains in the movement for marriage equality in the United States, such as the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8 by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2013 and the repeal of Amendment 1 in North Carolina by a U.S. District Court in 2014, resistance rooted in cynical appeals to populism and the tyranny of the majority rears its head in Alabama. This is manifest in the looming showdown between Judge Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) following the repeal of the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, in a ruling handed down by Justice Callie V. Granade of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama on January 23, 2015. This is not unlike the showdown that took place between Governor George C. Wallace and President John F. Kennedy in 1963 when Governor Wallace defied the SCOTUS ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, handed down in 1954 that declared segregation unconstitutional. In both cases, support for segregation and for a ban on same sex marriage was overwhelming and Wallace and Moore insisted their respective stands on the issues was justified in that they represented the opinion of the majority of voters in Alabama. Continue reading
Controversy rages on in U. S. society over the issues of religious liberty and sexuality. The right to marry, the destigmatization of homosexuality and reproductive freedom are issues that, historically and in the present, conflict with deep-seated religious beliefs and traditions in U.S. society. While the U.S. Congress and State Legislatures addressed these issues, especially in passing legislation to guarantee religious liberty, disputes concerning religious freedom and sexuality more often are settled by the courts. In 1967 the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled state bans on interracial marriage were unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia. In 2013, SCOTUS struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and refused to hear the appeal of Proposition 8 in California. This removed legal barriers to same-sex marriage. Homosexuality was decriminalized in the U.S. in 2003 when SCOTUS ruled on Lawrence v. Texas. Most recently, the decision handed down by SCOTUS in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby is generating heated discussion in the media and blogosphere. In this instance, SCOTUS ruled on a dispute between the issues of religious liberty and reproductive rights. Continue reading
The story of the life and love shared by Thomas Lee Bridegroom and Shane Bitney Crone resonates with me to this day. I learned of their life together and the tragedy that befell them in viewing It could happen to you, the YouTube video produced by Shane Bitney Crone in memory of Thomas Lee Bridegroom, who died in a tragic accident on May 7, 2011. Though I do not know either of these men, I was so moved in a way that I normally am not upon hearing of a personal tragedy that strikes people who are strangers to me. Watching It could happen to you had a profound effect on me; I felt grief and outrage well up inside me upon learning of the injustice and iniquity that was heaped on Shane Bitney Crone following the death of his partner, Thomas Lee Bridegroom. As same sex couples could not marry in California at the time of Tom’s death, Shane had no legal standing as Tom’s partner and could do nothing as the Bridegroom family claimed Tom’s body, his assets and barred Shane from attending his funeral. This is so wrong and it happens to other couples. From the grief and outrage I experienced I was inspired to join in the effort to advocate for full civil rights for gay people, marriage rights in particular. Continue reading
In a previously published essay, I discussed the life and career of Barry Goldwater, the Republican Senator from Arizona and his support of gays serving in the US military. Beyond this, he was in favour of gay rights in all of US society. This support was based on his conviction that there be a strict separation between religion and state. Goldwater’s position on gay rights and the separation of religion and state put him at odds with many conservatives, particularly the religious constituency known as the Christian right that supports the GOP and various socially conservative causes in the United States. The Christian right is composed primarily of the Moral Majority, renamed Moral Majority Coalition in 2004, the Christian Coalition of America, Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. The most prominent figures in the Christian Right are Jerry Falwell (deceased), Pat Robertson, James Dobson and Tony Perkins. Continue reading
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down rulings this week concerning marriage equality in law for same sex couples at the federal and state levels. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages, was declared unconstitutional and the court refused to hear the appeal of Proposition 8 in California, the ballot measure that changed the California Constitution to add a new section 7.5 to Article I, which reads: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Proposition 8 was declared unconstitutional by a lower court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in 2012 and the government of California chose not to defend the law on its appeal to SCOTUS. Consequently, a majority of the Justices refused to hear the appeal on the grounds the appellants did not have the constitutional authority, or legal standing, to defend the law in higher courts after the state refused to appeal its loss at trial. These rulings are the latest in an interesting history of legal battles over the definition of marriage in the United States.