Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 36 states plus the District of Columbia, support for marriage equality is growing nationwide, and a historic Supreme Court ruling that could force states to grant or recognize same-sex marriages is imminent.
Despite that, Republican lawmakers in some states are currently cooking up a variety of ways to circumvent such a ruling and to legally perpetuate marriage inequality. Here are just a few.
Earlier this year, Republicans in the Texas legislature circulated a bill that would prevent state and local officials from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The session, which ended June 1, was stalled by supporters in the House, mostly Democrats, who were able to let the clock run out before the bill could be voted on.
Alabama has done more than any other state to resist the federal court rulings on this issue, according to Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond School of Law professor who has tracked this issue. After the Supreme Court upheld a federal judge’s order that struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban, many of Alabama’s judges vowed to fight it.
One of those is Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. According to AL.com, “Moore argues no federal court — not even the U.S. Supreme Court — has the authority to reinvent the definition of words, such as ‘family’ and ‘marriage,’ for a state.”
Moore’s fine with ignoring rulings from higher courts. He’s ordered judges to not give out licenses for same-sex couples.
Other judges in Alabama, in order to get around the ruling on discrimination grounds, say they just won’t issue marriage licenses to anyone – straight or gay. This resembles a tactic used in Virginia in the 1960s, when rather than comply with a federal order to desegregate public schools, segregationists merely had them closed.
Opponents of these workarounds are afraid that Alabama will slide backward and become known as a place for intolerance – thereby losing people and talent to more progressive places.
Regardless, depending on the outcome of the Supreme Court decision, legal maneuvers are likely to continue.
North Carolina passed a law last week – overriding Governor Pat McCory’s veto – that follows a similar path. Court officials who cite a “sincerely held religious exemption” will recuse themselves from performing “marriage responsibilities” for both heterosexual and homosexual couples for at least six months.
Some lawmakers believe this is the fairest – and least discriminatory way – to deal with a contentious issue that divides public officials, judges, and citizens.
Utah passed a similar bill this year.
Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed by the Republican legislature, which allows business owners to refuse service to others based on religious grounds.
When the law was passed earlier this year, protest erupted. Connecticut’s governor vowed the state wouldn’t pay for lawmakers to travel there. The NCAA – and Miley Cyrus — weighed in. And a pizza parlor became a national lightning rod when it announced it wouldn’t cater a gay wedding.
Opponents—including the mayor of Indianapolis, the state’s largest city—have spoken out, warning that it could be seen as discriminatory, and voiced similar objections to those in Alabama: They don’t want Indiana to be seen as an intolerant place, and could lose economic and cultural capital because of the law.
Michigan didn’t enact a law per se against same-sex couples — the state just allowed adoption agencies to refuse on religious grounds to place children with homosexual couples. Similar to the laws in Indiana and North Carolina, the bill doesn’t refer to same-sex couples specifically but uses general language that is meant to cover several kinds of religious exemptions.
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