Yesterday I predicted that a three-bill package introduced in the state House by Republicans Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat was paving the way for “RFRA for Marriage” legislation in Michigan. Just hours later, Todd Courser confirmed that this is the case.
The confirmation came in a piece titled “It’s Time to End the States Involvement in Marriage” on Courser’s website (emphasis mine):
Today I entered a bill to end the states involvement in the sanctioning of marriage. Right now, as it sits with the decision from our U.S. Supreme Court looming, our elected officials could be forced to perform same sex marriages; if this happens then the liberal left will use this Supreme Court decision as a hammer to advance their liberal agenda. If the Supreme Court surprises everyone and decides to uphold the institution of marriage then I will simply will have the option to then withdraw the bill. The winds of secular progressivism gives me the sense that our Supreme Court is handing us their next step in the end of traditional morality for America. This bill simply put will end our elected official’s involvement in performing marriage ceremonies.
It is incredibly important that if the Supreme Court rules against traditional marriage that our elected officials are not forced to violate their conscience and be forced to perform gay marriages. Further note on another piece of legislation being drafted – I have asked for drafting of a bill to protect pastors from being forced to perform gay marriages as well.
Courser’s fear that national marriage equality will force churches and other religious organizations to perform same-sex weddings against their will is, of course, absurd. Justice Antonin Scalia tried to trot out this ridiculous idea when the U.S. Supreme Court was hearing arguments on the marriage equality case they are considering. Justice Kagan all but laughed at him and put him in his place. From the official transcript (“Bonauto” is LGBT advocate and attorney Mary Bonauto):
SCALIA: Miss — Bonauto, I’m — I’m concerned about the wisdom of this court imposing through the Constitution a — a requirement of action which is unpalatable to many of our citizens for religious reasons. They are not likely to change their view about what marriage consists of. And were — were the States to adopt it by law, they could make exceptions to what — what is required for same-sex marriage, who has to honor it and so forth. But once it’s — it’s made a matter of constitutional law, those exceptions — for example, is it — is it conceivable that a minister who is authorized by the State to conduct marriage can decline to marry two men if indeed this Court holds that they have a constitutional right to marry? Is it conceivable that that would be allowed?
BONAUTO: Your Honor, of course the Constitution will continue to apply, and right to this day, no clergy is forced to marry any couple that they don’t want to marry. We have those protections.
SCALIA: But — but right to this day, we have never held that there is a constitutional right for these two people to marry, and the minister is to the extent he’s conducting a civil marriage, he’s an instrument of the State. I don’t see how you could possibly allow that minister to say, I will only marry a man and a woman. I will not marry two men. Which means you — you would — you could — you could have ministers who — who conduct real marriages that — that are civilly enforceable at the National Cathedral, but not at St. Matthews downtown, because that minister refuses to marry two men, and therefore, cannot be given the State power to make a real State marriage. I don’t see any — any answer to that. I really don’t. […]
BONAUTO: If one thing is firm, and I believe it is firm, that under the First Amendment, that a clergyperson cannot be forced to officiate at a marriage that he or she does not want to officiate at. […]
JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN: Ms. Bonauto, maybe I’m just not understanding Justice Scalia’s question, but for example, there are many rabbis that will not conduct marriages between Jews and non-Jews, notwithstanding that we have a constitutional prohibition against religious discrimination. And those rabbis get all the powers and privileges of the State, even if they have that rule, most — many, many, many rabbis won’t do that.
As columnist Jeff Jacoby wrote in an op-ed in the Boston Globe last fall, the Supreme Court has said repeatedly over the years that members of the clergy can’t be compelled to perform weddings they don’t wish to because the 1st Amendment protects silence as much as it does speech:
[T]here is considerably more to the First Amendment than the unique protection it extends to churches. The freedom of expression it enshrines secures the right to speak no less than the right not to speak. Time and again the Supreme Court has confirmed that government may not force Americans to utter words they disbelieve or deny. “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation,” Justice Robert Jackson wrote in a landmark 1943 decision that struck down a law compelling students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, “it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”
The goal here, of course, is not to “protect pastors from being forced to perform gay marriages”. They don’t need that protection. The goal here is to make it as hard as possible for same-sex couples to find someone willing to marry them. If the package of legislation submitted by Courser and Gamrat – House Bills 4731-4733 – is signed into law, government officials will no longer be allowed to sign and issue marriage licenses or to perform marriages. That will become the exclusive realm of religious organizations.
“RFRA for Marriage” is just an cherry on top of that theocratic cake.
Adding… Courser’s abject fear of loving same-sex couples being married verges on being cartoonish. A SCOTUS decision making marriage equality the law of the land will ultimately destroy American society, if Courser is to be believed:
This U. S. Supreme Court decision will potentially throw out thousands of years of Judeo Christian history and will be used as a massive hammer from the progressive movement over many areas of religious liberty and freedom of expression, within churches, within commerce and throughout society in general. It is one more step in the tearing down of the Judeo Christian foundation of our country.
Love is, indeed, powerful. On that Todd Courser and I agree.