Last week, the Supreme Court chose not to take up a case brought to them by former Rowan County (Kentucky) Clerk Kim Davis, the anti-gay government official who wouldn’t issue same-sex marriage licenses even though that was her job. But that wasn’t the big news.
The headlines focused on how two justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, issued a statement saying that, while they agreed it was the right move not to hear this particular case, they believed the Obergefell ruling that legalized marriage equality nationwide needed to be overturned.
That was especially disturbing because Chief Justice John Roberts dissented in Obergefell, two new justices have been appointed to the court by Donald Trump, and another vehemently anti-LGBTQ judge will likely join them within weeks. There’s a very strong chance that, like abortion rights, marriage equality will soon be overturned.
Because this is obviously a matter centered around religion and “religious freedom” (i.e. faith-based bigotry), the leaders of the Congressional Freethought Caucus have issued a statement denouncing that possibility.
Representatives Jared Huffman and Jamie Raskin sent this along in an email:
Suggesting reversal of this landmark ruling is a dramatic attack on the LGBTQ+ community that turns religious liberty into a weapon against other people’s fundamental rights. Religious freedom isn’t the right to compel the government to deny the equal rights of other citizens. But, as members of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, we see right-wing forces on the Court and in Congress trying to twist religious free exercise into a bizarre new right to make the state discriminate against disfavored groups.
Any government that can turn the clock back to discriminate against same-sex couples can also turn it back to discriminate against interracial and interfaith couples. Nothing could be more deeply at odds with our principles of constitutional freedom and equality for all Americans.
That right there is alarming. The congressmen are saying that if marriage equality can be overturned, there’s really nothing that could prevent Christians from making the same argument in other ways.
What happens if a county clerk refuses to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple using the same justification as Kim Davis? What happens if a baker refuses to sell a wedding cake to an interfaith couple? If religion becomes a legal excuse to avoid following the law, it would be a disaster.
This is not a slippery slope fallacy. While fewer Christians have a problem with interracial/interfaith couples, those bigots exist. It’s up to our courts — and our legislators — to make sure bigotry has no place in the public square. With a conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court, that protection could be out the window.