"Hateful Bigots" 2/12/2016

In his dissenting opinion in the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision, Justice Samuel Alito said that the majority decision “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy” of marriage being redefined to include same-sex unions.

“Perhaps recognizing how its reasoning may be used, the majority attempts” Alito said, “to reassure those who oppose same-sex marriage that their rights of conscience will be protected.”  He was referring to Justice Kennedy’s comment that “Religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere convictions that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”

Justice Alito concluded, “We will soon see whether this proves to be true.  I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.”

A mere seven months after Justice Alito wrote this opinion, I experienced accusations of hatred and bigotry because I testified against three bills that propose to enshrine the Obergefell  in Nebraska’s statutes and Constitution.

Two of the bills, LB 943 and LB 944, propose to replace the gender-specific terms of “husband,” “wife,” “mother” and “father” in Nebraska’s statutes with gender-neutral terms like “spouse(s)” and “parent(s).” The third bill, LR 389 CA, proposes to place before the voters of Nebraska in November the question of whether to retain or repeal the amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

I began my testimony by communicating the unchangeable truth about marriage. “Marriage is a covenant or partnership of life between a man and woman, which is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children. It is and can only be the union of one man and one woman. It is the only institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and with any child who comes from their union.

“Marriage is based on the truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the reality that the ideal setting for raising children is with their mother and father. Redefining marriage does not simply expand the existing understanding of marriage, it rejects these truths.

“Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable…

Five Justices wrongly declared same-sex unions to be the equivalent of marriage. Nebraska should not ascribe moral legitimacy to an erroneous judicial opinion by undertaking to remove a provision affirming the truth about marriage in the state’s constitution” or enshrining it in our statutes.

At the end of the opposition testimony—there was only one other group opposed to the three bills—one of the Committee members strongly voiced displeasure with our opposition. We were told that the Supreme Court has spoken and same-sex “marriage” is now the settled law of the land so we should accept this as reality.

This sort of argument is familiar to those of us who have worked to overturn Roe v. Wade.  What’s more disturbing is that we were also accused of being hateful bigots because we disagree with the Court’s decision and continue to advocate for marriage between one man and one woman.

Justice Alito was clearly prophetic in his dissenting opinion in Obergefell. Proponents of same-sex marriage are not content with the Court’s redefinition of marriage. They won’t stop until they have “stamp[ed] out every vestige of dissent” by “vilify[ing] Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.”  That kind of extremism should offend and frighten every American, regardless of one’s view on the definition of marriage.