A narrow majority of Justices on the Supreme Court have struck a blow for decency and against fundamentalist intrusion into politics and justice, but there is much more work to be done, argues TCBH! journalist Dave Lindorff, to remove the pernicious influence of religious zealots from law and politics.
By Dave Lindorff
The pig-headed small-mindedness and intellectual dishonesty of most fundamentalists of whatever religion knows no bounds.
Kudos to the narrow majority of the five Supreme Court justices for today at least blowing one result of that pig-headedness out of the water with their ruling declaring that states cannot abridge or deny gay couples from marrying in a state-sanctioned union, and receiving all the benefits that come from such a union.
The opposition to gay marriage has never made any constitutional sense. It has always been based upon a false conflating of church weddings and the legal marriage that is conferred by local governments in accordance to state laws. The fundamentalists -- people like Jerry Falwell or ex-Senator and perennial GOP presidential wannabe Rick Santorum and their ilk -- have claimed ad nauseum that sanctioning gay marriage would "weaken" marriage as an institution, citing in support the Bible, which they erroneously claim "defines" marriage as the "union of one man and one woman." (Hell, it doesn't even include the number one, as many male characters in the Bible have more than one wife.)
But aside from the obvious point that with divorce rates in the US running at close to 50% for first marriages, the "institution" itself is pretty weak on its own and doesn't need any help from gay couples, who actually have a pretty good record of staying together, when it comes to that, even when denied the right to marry as has long been the case.
More importantly, nothing in the Supreme Court's decision would require any church to itself offer marriage services to gay couples. That is a battle that has to be fought religious sect by religious sect -- something that has been going on for some time now. What the court has done, and its action is shamelessly long in coming -- is say that the civil procedure of registering a marriage cannot be denied to anyone because of sexual orientation, and that with that change, gay couples who marry in accordance with Constitutionally protected state law anywhere in the US (or elsewhere in the world one would assume), have the same rights and legal responsibilities and liabilities as do heterosexual couples.
With this decision, gay couples have the same right to adopt children, to visit each other in the hospital, to have joint bank accounts, to obtain health benefits offered to employee spouses, to file joint income taxes and to share in driving a rental car. They also will enjoy the protection of divorce law, will be liable where appropriate, for paying child support and sometimes alimony in the event of a divorce, and will have the protection of shared ownership of property except where there are pre-nuptial agreements signed.
If any of that weakens what's left of religious marriage vows (which I sincerely doubt), then tough.
I'm glad this particular "wedge issue" has been tossed on the scrap heap by the High Court, though I'm sure the political class, Republican and Democratic, will find new ones to play havoc with the thought-process of the electorate and convince people to continue to vote against their own crucial political and economic interests.
But it would be great if that same court majority would continue in this vein and show a little courage in exposing and tossing out some of the other crap foisted on society and the body politic by the political charlatans and the intellectually and morally bankrupt fundamentalist fringe.
Abortion rights is a classic example. Right now, across the country, we see anti-abortion zealots trying to copy Texas in passing legislation that requires doctors who perform abortions in clinics to obtain hospital privileges at a nearby hospital, along with other kinds of interference in the patient/doctor relationship, such as requiring doctors to provide false or misleading medical "advice" to would-be abortion seekers, mandating a waiting period after a person seeking an abortion requests the operation before it can be done, requiring abortion seekers to view a sonogram image of the fetus, or, in the case of retrograde Kansas, outlawing the safest means of early-term abortions, a D&C procedure. These measures are "sold" to the public as being put in place to "improve the safety" of the pregnant woman. None of them do that, of course, and their advocates know that. In fact they don't give a damn about the safety of these women. It's all about preventing women -- particularly poor women and young women -- from obtaining a safe and legal abortion.
The same Supreme Court that recognized the political machinations and the false claims behind opposition to gay marriage should also recognize the cruel, immoral and corrupt motives behind the anti-abortionists.
I could go on. The right-wing obsession with ever more felony laws, and with harsh sentencing, three-strikes-and-you're-out mandatory life sentences, the clearly racist and classist death penalty, and cuts in funding for public defenders, all of which have combined to make the US the world's biggest jailer, and to effectively restore the institution of slavery some century and a half after it was legally overthrown, is another travesty heavily driven by fundamentalist Christians who only acknowledge the barbaric "eye-for-an-eye" creed of the Old Testament, and forget the "Love thy neighbor as thyself" message of the new one. The Supreme Court majority that can recognize the bullshit behind opposition to gay marriage, should also instantly recognize the gross violation of the Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment" inherent in lengthy sentences and state-sanctioned execution" in this nation's current jurisprudence, and should put an end to it.
I'm not holding my breath. Four members of the court are glaring examples of the very ignorance and fundamentalism I'm talking about here. Ironically, the four, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas, are all Catholics. Given the position of the new Pope on some, though not all, of these issues, that is somewhat ironic, but it is no libel of Catholicism to point this out. Like all religions, it has its reactionary zealots as well as its progressive humanists. It just happens that for some time, the institutional church has been staunchly anti-abortion and anti-gay, which has led to a disproportionate number of Catholics put on the bench especially by Republican presidents. All the same, it's worth noting that there are also two other Catholics on the bench -- Sonya Sotomayor and Anthony Kennedy -- who voted in the majority in today's decision, though Kennedy has not been so good on the abortion issue.
Religion has no business informing the decisions of the Supreme Court, and in a decent country, would also not be a factor in lawmaking in Congress either. Even religious zealots should recognize the danger of pushing their view into the law, since today's fundamentalist Christian political power could tomorrow be replaced at some future date by another religion's political power. The founder's had it right in opposing state religion and in establishing, or attempting to establish in the Constitution, a firm separation between church and state.
It's great that at least in the case of gay marriage, a majority, narrow as it may be, of the Supreme Court finally ignored the bleats of pathetic fundamentalist Christians and accorded equal rights to gay Americans, but we still have a long way to go until the scourge of religious zealotry is erased from American politics and the courts.
DAVE LINDORFF is a member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent, uncompromised, five-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper. His work, and that of colleagues JOHN GRANT, GARY LINDORFF, ALFREDO LOPEZ, LORI SPENCER, LINN WASHINGTON, JR., and the late CHARLES M. YOUNG, can be found atwww.thiscantbehappening.net
(Article changed on June 26, 2015 at 15:05)
Dave Lindorff, winner of a 2019 "Izzy" Award for Outstanding Independent Journalism from the Park Center for Independent Media in Ithaca, is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the Disintegration of American Democracy" and "Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Penalty Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal"). His latest book, coauthored with Barbara Olshanshky, is "The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office (St. Martin's Press, May 2006).