Tuesday, January 27, 2015

As Marriage Rights Sweep U.S., Reaction in Heartland: Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana, Missouri, Etc.

In the news: as German Lopez reports for Vox that same-sex marriage rights are sweeping the U.S., here's what's happening out in the heartland, especially in states heavily dominated by conservative white evangelical voters:

Oklahoma (with Arkansas, at the top of the list of U.S. states with citizens identifying as evangelicals; also the state increasingly identified as the reddest — most GOP-voting — state in the Union): as David Badash reports for The New Civil Rights Movement, state representative Sally Kern, whose husband is a Southern Baptist minister, has introduced a trifecta of bills designed to inform LGBT citizens of the state that they are not welcome there:

Oklahoma Republican state Rep. Sally Kern has introduced three bills targeting gay people. Were all three to become law it would be nearly impossible for members of the LGBT community to safely exist in the Sooner State. 

Zack Ford comments at Think Progress: 

Unlike the slew of bills in other states that use "religious freedom" language to create a carve-out for anti-LGBT discrimination, Kern’s bill explicitly identifies LGBT people: "No business entity shall be required to provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges related to any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person, group or association." This bill may be the most blatant "license to discriminate" of any legislation recently proffered by conservative lawmakers across the country. 

Alabama (a state half of whose voters identify as evangelicals ranked by some studies as the most GOP state in the nation): here's Matt Baume for Huffington Post on what's happening there (with notes on Oklahoma, Florida, and South Carolina) after an Alabama judge threw out the state's ban on same-sex marriage:

There's a big fight underway right now in Alabama, with a Judge overturning a marriage ban and state officials refusing to obey his order to issue licenses. Anti-gay politicians are threatening to ban all marriage licenses if the Supreme Court rules in favor of equality. And one lawmaker even wants to send clerks to jail if they issue licenses to anyone -- gay or straight.  . . . 
In fact, in 1958, Governor Faubus closed all Little Rock high schools for a year, for white and black students, so they wouldn't have to be integrated. And now, that's exactly the same strategy that anti-gay officials are pursuing with marriage. In Florida, several counties have canceled all courthouse weddings, for straight and gay couples. A South Carolina bill would revoke the salary government employees who allow a gay or lesbian couple to marry. And a crazy proposal by Representative Todd Russ in Oklahoma would prohibit state officials from issuing marriage licenses altogether. Under his proposal, state officials who issue a marriage license to any couple, gay or straight, would go to jail for up to a year. 
Obviously, judges refusing to obey federal rulings, and ludicrous bills Oklahoma's have no chance of passing constitutional muster. But they don't have to -- they're not supposed to pass, their only purpose is to intimidate. To let us know we're not welcome. Huckabee and Ross and officials like them are on the same page as segregationists like Orval Faubus. And that's how history will remember them. By the way Faubus ran for governor again, 30 years later, but he was defeated by a kid named Bill Clinton. 

As Amanda Terkel notes at Huffington Post, here's the response of openly gay Alabama legislator Patricia Todd to her colleagues's "family values" shenanigans to attack gay couples seeking the right of marriage:

Alabama's only openly gay legislator is putting her anti-gay colleagues on notice: If they keep espousing family values rhetoric as a reason to oppose marriage equality, she'll start making their marital infidelities public. 

And Louisiana, with a Catholic governor who has just assured the media that no one will out-pander Bobby Jindal when it comes to trolling for anti-gay religious-right voters — Shahlen Nasiripour at HuffPo:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) said Sunday he would support an amendment to the Constitution that would enable state legislatures to outlaw same-sex marriage if the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn various state bans. 

Finally, Missouri, where the Catholic bishop of the diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau recently compared the decision of the Mercy Health system to provide benefits to the legally married same-sex spouses of employees to the Roman Empire torturing Christians — here's Ian Millhiser at Think Progress

A Catholic Bishop compared requiring all couples to be treated with equal dignity to "the cruelty and torture of the Roman Empire" last week. His statement was a response to a Catholic health system’s announcement that they may extend benefits to the legally married spouses of their lesbian, gay, and bisexual employees.

As the presidential primary approaches, the GOP's candidates are scrambling to win the support of theocrats, bigots and anti-immigrant extremists. What they don't seem to realize is that that will make it much harder for them to win the respect of the rest of us.

He's correct about that. 

The map at the head of the posting, crediting Freedom to Marry and media reports, is from German Lopez's article linked above.

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