(REAL TIMES MEDIA)—I have no idea why citizens waste thousands of signatures, volunteer hours and tax payer money to put anti-gay marriage legislation on the ballot in a state. Moreover it escapes me why anyone in their right mind doesn’t see how or why such legislation always ends up being more trouble than it’s worth. These laws always attract lawsuits, scandals and media, to otherwise unimportant and looked over places like South Dakota.
Last week South Dakota got itself noticed by national media for something other than a mad cow scare because of recently married lesbian couple Ashley Stabe and Amy Stabe. Amy and Ashely got marriage legally in Iowa and decided to move to Dakota for an even simpler life. Unfortunately their transition has hit a bit of snag for Amy Stabe, or according to South Dakota’s Department of Motor Vehicles Amy Mutton. Amy Stabe’s name was legally changed from Mutton to Stabe when she got married in Iowa, but despite this the state of South Dakota has refused to acknowledge her changed social security card, credit cards and a whole slew of other documentation that clearly shows she has changed her name. Why? Because to give Amy Mutton a new drivers license with the name Amy Stabe, according to state officials, would be a state acknowledgment of a gay marriage, something that voters said “No” to in a statewide referendum in 2006.
The stupidity of the South Dakota law is a given. It is really none of the business of a state with more cattle than people to be telling other sentient human beings what to do with their hearts or body parts. However in their zealousness to stop the ‘gay plague’ the anti-gay marriage citizens of South Dakota have turned what should be a routine bureaucratic matter into a state and likely federal case that will likely bring down the entire referendum. The Stabe’s with the help of the state ACLU are already heading to court on this matter.
One of the biggest problems with anti-gay legislation is that such policies violate basic American norms, stem from political dirty tricks and ultimately often violate the constitution. In America people have the freedom to live how they wish, even if everyone else around them doesn’t like it. If an individual doesn’t like gay marriage they can simply chose to not have one. In a similar manner if I don’t like Satan worshipers I don’t have to paint a hexagram on my driveway. However I have no right to go out and petition the government to stop other people from worshiping Satan no matter how offensive it is to me personally, unless I can prove that their behavior directly harms me. Not offends, or annoys but directly prevents me from living my life in anyway that I wish. That is an American norm.
In addition, anti-gay marriage legislation is from the old George Bush / Karl Rove dirty tricks playbook to get out evangelical conservatives for elections. Bush did little or nothing to end gay marriage on the federal level because he didn’t care, he knew it was a tool to motivate voters and South Dakotans anti-gay crusaders fell for it.
Finally all of these laws are bound to fail when challenged in the courts because they violate the full faith and credit clause of the constitution which is essential to the American way of life. The Full Faith and Credit clause was one of the key differences between the articles of confederation and our current constitution. It states that laws in one state have to be honored and enforced in others. Without it, a contract between business partners in Virginia could be ignored in Ohio, a product order in Michigan could be considered invalid in Texas, etc. Consequently a marriage in Iowa will be proven valid in South Dakota by any federal court. To rule otherwise the very fabric of America would unravel.
The irony is, that states like South Dakota and others are willing to pass legislation that strikes at the very core of what it is to be an American just so that they can supposedly stop an action that they think strikes at the core of Christianity. Which is their right, the problem is that we live in the United States of America, Not the United States of Christianity. And to the degree that state legislators and citizens forget that difference they lead our nation down a dangerous path.
(Dr. Jason Johnson is an associate professor at Hiram College in Ohio.)