No one expected the U.S. Supreme Court to totally end the gay-marriage debate. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark moment in the Civil Rights Movement, but it didn’t end the movement any more than it fixed racism in America.
So it’s no surprise that following the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26 that legalized gay marriage in all 50 states, some conservative holdouts have refused giving up.
When the justice released their 5-4 decision in Obergefell, it was instantly recognized as historic and celebrated by much of the country. Facebook was overrun with rainbow profile photos and the White House, in an image sure to be a lasting symbol of the day, was lighted up in rainbow colors. San Francisco Pride, which just happened to take place over the weekend following the Supreme Court’s announcement, saw record attendance as the annual event took on new significance.
But some Republican officials, mostly in the South, said they would not recognize the ruling. Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana and low-polling GOP presidential candidate, called the Supreme Court “out of control” while denouncing the ruling. Within a week, however, a U.S. District Court judge in New Orleans had struck down the state’s gay marriage ban.
And in Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement days after the ruling saying the Supreme Court could not force judges or other government workers to act against their religious beliefs in granting gay marriages. Despite Paxton’s grandstanding, Texas estimates 2,500 gay marriages have been approved in the state since June, largely without controversy.
Paxton’s decree seems to have little lasting effect in Texas, but his flawed reasoning has resonated elsewhere. Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis went to jail after refusing to issue any marriage licenses. If she had to give licenses to gay people, she just wouldn’t give them to anybody.
Hundreds rallied in support of her as she was released from jail, and there are still legal questions about what’s going on in her office. Luckily, Davis is looking more and more like the face of a misguided religious cult than the spiritual activist some take her to be.
Other holdouts have come from legal circles but still sit firmly on the fringe of mainstream thought. Judge Vance Day of Oregon’s Third Judicial District refuses to perform same-sex marriages and ordered his clerks to direct gay couples to other judges. Day’s stance has yet to draw the kind of backlash Davis saw, but legal challenges are expected.
But the most recent and highest ranking government official who seems unable to accept reality is Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He reaffirmed his descent in Obergefell while speaking at Rhodes College in Memphis on Sept. 22. “I worry about a court that’s heading in that direction,” he said.
It’s too bad for Scalia, Davis and anyone in between that there is essentially no chance of a reversal of the Supreme Court. Surveys show most Americans now support gay marriage. And that’s true among all age groups, political affiliations and religions.
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