After I heard the Supreme Court ruling last Friday, providing marriage equality for all Americans in all 50 states, I joked, well, now that that’s over I can reconsider becoming a Republican. While it was just a joke and a plethora of issues keep me from considering that jump, the reaction of GOP presidential candidates and other officials have only reaffirmed my disappointment with that party. I am holding onto the slightest hope that the Republican candidates are simply providing faux outrage required by their party’s base in the immediate aftermath of the ruling, and will quietly move on to other issues after this week — although that hope should not be confused with optimism.
As can be expected, the most outrageous “outrage” spewed from the mouth of Texas Senator Ted Cruz. If Ted Cruz were an oil spill, he would make BP’s spill in the Gulf look like the floor of a Valvoline or Pep Boys garage. The amount of polluted, misleading, hyperbolic rhetoric he spilled across the country may be the most reckless of his notable two-year record, and does nothing but incite those with biases, further divide Americans and set the board for a new culture war.
I almost feel remorse for committing any time and space to giving Cruz attention — because self-serving attention is ultimately all he is seeking — but he is vowing to drag the issue of marriage equality into the 2016 Republican primary and general election. This is great news for Democrats, but not for the country.
Cruz is an elusive interview for even the most experienced journalists, so it is important to spotlight his fraudulence. For instance, he uses his experience as a former Supreme Court clerk and Solicitor General for the state of Texas to establish himself as a credible authority on the Constitution, before using bombastic rhetoric to serve his own political interests.
He said of the judges, “[They] violated their judicial oath … rewrote Obamacare … rewrote the Constitution … threw out the marriage laws of all 50 states,” and my favorite, “five unelected lawyers saying the views of 320 million Americans don’t matter, because they’re going to enforce their own policy position.”
He knows that each of these claims is either technically untrue or practically untrue. For instance, if five of the justices are “unelected lawyers,” so are the four with whom he agrees.
And while he claims the views of 320 million (essentially all) Americans are having their views overlooked, this is clear hyperbole, and his own personal disregard for the views of a majority of Americans who do favor equality.
Most important, he said he would encourage county clerks in Texas to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if they have religious objections. This is already being seen across Kentucky and several other states. It has prompted a letter from Governor Steve Beshear, reminding clerks “It’s a Class A misdemeanor in Kentucky — first-degree official misconduct — if a public servant … refrains from performing a duty imposed upon him by law or clearly inherent in the nature of his office.”
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway also said in a statement, “Any clerk that refuses to issue marriage licenses is opening himself or herself to potential legal liability and sanctions.”
First, to support direct disobedience of the Supreme Court’s decision spits in the face of our system of government, and our Constitution. It also jeopardizes the jobs and legal security of those officials who heed his advice. Furthermore, what Cruz is saying tacitly validates people’s biases and misperceptions about what religious freedom means in America. In Cruz’s world, America would forever be at the religious whims of an individual, not a nation of laws.
If a person wants to practice his or her religion, America provides and protects their right to do so. What America and the Constitution do not provide for is a person in a democratically elected position to pick and choose what parts of that job he or she wants to fulfill. Any clerk or official who does not want to issue a same-sex marriage license has the option to resign and find a new job that is in accordance with their religious views — although I would advise staying out of public office.
The Constitution defends a person’s right to practice their religion. But if he or she wants to become a county clerk, he or she must be able to perform the job, which now includes issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.