We’re very close to the SCOTUS ruling that many believe will legalize gay marriage and bring us out of the Dark Ages. In a knee-jerk, fear-based reaction, a proposed Michigan bill requires clergy solemnize ALL marriages. The inspiration behind this latest piece of… legislation is RNC Chairman Dave Agema, the man who brought us this gem:
“Obama is 50% white, 43.75% Arabic and 6,26% (sic) black. Obama does not have a history of overcoming discrimination and slavery like many others, yet he leads us to believe otherwise. In fact, his genealogy shows his ancestors owned slaves. His father was a Muslim and communist, his step father was a Muslim and a comminist (sic) and he went to a Muslim school in Indonesia.”
Todd Courser (R-Lapeer County) drank Agema’s KoolAid and went back for seconds. Courser proposed a set of bills, that require clergy solemnize all marriages and one that would protect said clergy from legal action if they refused to do so. In other words, if the SCOTUS OKs gay marriage, Courser intends to flip them the legislative bird.
As it stands in my fair state, one can choose to be married in a church or in a civil service (Justice of the Peace, County Clerk). This is how everyone (except gay couples) gets married in Michigan. Under Courser’s bills, regardless of one’s faith or lack thereof, a member of the clergy must sign the marriage certificate for the marriage to be legal.
To say that Mr. Courser’s logic is flawed is an understatement. In an effort to block gay couples from legally marrying (even if the highest court in the land says they can!), he is basically blocking everyone who doesn’t conform to his vision of Christian government from being legally married. Let that sink in for a bit.
According to Courser, “I’m completely traditional marriage – I believe that the traditional marriage is really God’s model for marriage. I don’t believe that government has a role in it.” While at the same time, he is proposing government legislation that will change marriage. “It would take the idea of officiating marriages out of the hands of the … elected officials and put it back into the hands of those in ministry,” he says.
What if you’re an atheist? Or gay? Or (gasp, the horror!) a gay atheist? What if you’re just John and Jane Doe who believe in God but don’t belong to any particular church or want to submit to a church’s human-interpreted vision of God’s law?
Simply put, under Courser’s bills you’re screwed.
Remember Loving v. Virginia, the 1966 landmark case that allowed interracial marriages? Well, under Courser, you can forget that, too if you happen to have a racist pastor. Surprised? You should be. The companion legislation shields Brother Bigot from any legal action for refusing to marry you.
Here’s another for you: say Brother Bigot is Republican minister and you’re a nice, upstanding Democratic couple seeking the bliss of marriage. Brother Bigot can decide your left-leaning, pro-choice Democratness offends his deeply held religious beliefs and refuse to officiate your ceremony.
If I haven’t driven home the point yet, please take away my license! Mr. Courser isn’t acting out of faith he’s acting out of fear. He and those like him are deathly afraid of losing their lifestyles. That fear overrides logic, even in an esteemed member of our legislature.
Mr. Courser wants to stop gay couples from marrying, full stop. However, his fear that Brad and I tying the knot will destroy his lifestyle has made him blind to the fact that his bills prevent everyone who doesn’t want a church wedding from getting married. In a futile effort to preserve something he’s in no danger of actually losing, he’s making life difficult for his constituency and that of his cronies. Woe unto him next election if his bills become law.
I invite Mr. Courser to provide me a detailed description of how gay marriage is going to destroy his, or anyone else’s, life. I’m serious! I will gladly hear him out and, if he is open to logical discourse, discuss the issue with him. To that effect, I’m sending a copy of this blog posting to him and to all Michigan legislators.
While I wish I could honestly say that I expect an answer, I really don’t. It’s not entirely Mr. Courser’s fault, either. He’s afraid. Gay marriage terrifies him and those like him, much the same way interracial marriage must have terrified those who crafted legislation against it. Allowing interracial marriages didn’t destroy the institution of marriage. It didn’t corrupt the moral fabric of our nation. It didn’t detract from anyone’s life at all.
In fact, I suspect it enriched our lives by legally recognizing love and removing the stigma attached to such relationships. I can imagine that, in 1966, those opposed to it couldn’t force themselves to see those possibilities even if they tried. Am I excusing them? Am I excusing Mr. Courser and his pals?
No. Most emphatically, NO! Just because we fear something doesn’t make it evil or wrong. We have a duty to face our fears and work through them, lest they perpetually control us. It’s not easy, I’ll give you that much. But, it is necessary.
One of the most powerful antidotes to fear is love. I know, this is a legal blog and I’m waxing poetic, but give me a moment. Love takes all forms: a couple in Virginia who never really wanted to be the center of attention; a president who couldn’t abide the thought of people being slaves; a reverend who believed that skin color didn’t make people second-class citizens. Even if that first step was tentative, that first word spoken with a shaky voice, that was love in action.
If Mr. Courser wishes to continue in his path of fear and see these bills to whatever may be their destiny, then I will stand in loving opposition. As will many clergy who don’t judge people based on differences and who are willing to serve even those who don’t believe. I’m not just an opinionated blogger; I am a member of that clergy, too.
Years ago, before Mr. Courser’s bills were even a twinkle in his eye, I was ordained because I believed it was a good way to help those who sought to be married but didn’t “belong” to any faith community. I had the very great honor of officiating the marriage of two dear friends.
Regardless of the outcome of Mr. Courser’s actions, if you are in Michigan and you need an understanding officiant, I am here for you. Someone else’s fear need not prevent you from being married if that is your choice. My love, and the love of countless others, won’t allow that fear to win.