As much of the nation celebrates another step in the long march towards true equality under the law for all Americans, Montana’s leading Republican officeholders issued statements redolent of the stench of America’s segregationist past. Even though the Supreme Court quite reasonably concluded that a government cannot allow bigotry to prevent someone from marrying the person s/he loves, it seems that Montana Republicans are more interested in scoring points with their aging, angry base–or more troublingly, actually believe in government-sponsored discrimination.
From Attorney General Tim Fox, who as recently as one year ago “invoked the specter of legalized polygamy, out-of-wedlock birth and general moral dissolution to drum up opposition to same-sex marriage”:
The nation’s highest court has spoken on this matter, and though I disagree with the ruling, it is now the law of the land.
From Senator Steve Daines:
The Court is overriding the will of the people of Montana and numerous other states that have defined marriage as between one man and one woman. I believe marriage is between one man and one woman.
And then there’s Representative Ryan Zinke, who managed to hit the trifecta of bigoted, illogical, and absurd:
Today’s court decision undermines religious freedom and usurps the rights of Montana and several other states that have chosen to define marriage within their states. While I believe marriage is between one man and one woman, I urge all Americans to treat each other with dignity, compassion and respect.
In no way does the Supreme Court decision undermine religious freedom, no more than did the Court in Loving v. Virginia, when it opposed deeply held religious beliefs that God intended the races to be separate. It no more usurps the rights of states than did the Court in Brown v. Board of Education, when it held that government-sanctioned “separate but equal” access to the rights and privileged of government could not be allowed. And Zinke can’t argue that people be treated with “compassion” when he apparently believes that a state should be able to preventing a loved to care for a partner in the hospital, can’t argued for “dignity” when he believes that state-sanctioned bigotry should endure, and certainly can’t argue for “respect” when he can’t even respect the Court’s constitutional role as the interpreter of the Constitution long enough to acknowledge this historic day.
I know it’s troubling for those who oppose same sex marriage and the cynical politicians who feed on their fears to accept, but today, they are making the same arguments that the worst of the segregationists made in response to the Civil Rights Movement and interracial marriage. In case anyone needs a reminder, here are the words of the judge who initially convicted Richard and Mildred Loving, written over 40 years ago:
“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents,” decreed Leon Bazile, the judge who convicted Mildred and Richard Loving. “And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages.”
As for me, I prefer the words of the lead plaintiff from today’s decision, Jim Obergfell:
From this day forward, it will simply be marriage.