“A travesty of justice.” That’s what the religious right is calling the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear a case challenging the District of Columbia’s marriage equality law.
Rev. Anthony Evans, a D.C. minister who has worked with Bishop Harry Jackson, who brought the suit seeking to invalidate the 10-month-old same-sex marriage law in the District, accused the Supreme Court of forcing the law “down the church’s throat.”
“[W]hat the Supreme Court has set up is the greatest civil war between the church and the gay community,” Evans said. “And let me just state for the record, we don’t want that fight. We love our gay brothers and sisters. But if the Supreme Court is not going to acknowledge the fact that we have a right as religious people to have a say-so in the framework of religious ethics for our culture and society, then we reject the Supreme Court on this issue.”
Using civil war imagery to set up a false dichotomy of “the church vs. gays” doesn’t seem advisable in an atmosphere already rife with violent rhetoric. It also doesn’t jibe with Evans’ next sentence expressing “love” for gays and lesbians. Usually, people who want to express love for someone do everything they can to help those people live the best life possible – not prevent them from achieving full equality.
Jackson brought the suit after the District’s Board of Elections and Ethics ruled that the city’s Human Rights Act prohibited the marriage law from being put to a popular vote. That’s what really sticks in the craw of those opposed to marriage equality.
“In America, we respect the right to vote. That right is explicitly protected by the D.C. Charter, but the government has succeeded for now in suppressing the voice of D.C. citizens,” said Austin R. Nimocks, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. “We had hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would restore this guaranteed right in the district. … We will remain diligent in looking for other legal opportunities to protect and defend the right of all D.C. residents to have their voices heard as the D.C. Charter clearly intended.”
If we had put the rights of the minority to a majority vote back in the 1960s, I dare say Jim Crow laws would still be on the books here in my state of South Carolina. There are simply some matters, like the rights of minorities, that cannot be put to a popular vote — though the rights of gays and lesbians seem to be put to the vote often these days.
Not all religious folks were complaining about the ruling, however. Rev. Rob Hardies, one of the co-chairs of DC Clergy United for Marriage Equality, said he was “delighted” with the ruling.
“This is an issue that has been settled by the people’s elected representatives, and there is no turning back now. Too many families’ and children’s lives would be disrupted if the Supreme Court were to turn back this decision and strip away rights. The Human Rights Act of DC upholds an important principle, which is that an individual’s basic human rights shouldn’t be put to a majority vote. If the history of human rights in our country has taught us anything, it is the wisdom of this principle.”