Editors’ note: We are happy to welcome Andrea Greer, a progressive activist from Houston, who will be covering women’s health, reproductive justice, and more.
What does abortion have to do with same-sex marriage? Plenty.
Obergefell v. Hodges should be the last word on same-sex marriage. Religious fringe groups, however, egged on by extremist Republicans willfully misrepresenting the law, see it as a declaration of war.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, sounded the degüello in the Washington Post immediately following the decision:
As I write this, the Supreme Court has handed down what will be the “Roe v. Wade” of marriage, redefining marriage in all 50 states. This is a sober moment, and I am a conscientious dissenter from this ruling …The witness to marriage will be, like the pro-life movement, a long-term strategy that is multi-pronged.
What does that mean?
Here’s how the strategy has played out regarding Roe and abortion: unable to outlaw abortion outright, opponents have regulated it at the international, state, and local level in every manner imaginable, litigating every step of the way, while setting the terms of the debate in popular culture using appealing language without regard for meaning or medical facts.
What might we expect, then, extrapolating from our experience with the steady foreclosure on reproductive rights?
A legislative strategy will be a key element in their work. And it will likely shift from marriage to employment. Notice that even though Obergefell had nothing to do with the workplace, most of the commentary immediately following the decision focused on employees and religious freedom.
Speaking with NPR’s Audie Cornish the day of the ruling, Rick Scarborough, a Nacogdoches-based hatemonger, shared his fears of what will follow from it:
We don’t just conduct weddings, Audie, we have Christian schools, hospitals, soup kitchens, benevolence ministries, we reach out to AIDS victims. What we’ve historically done is enforce moral standards on those that we employ in those ministries.
So, for instances, if one of the coaches in a Christian high school says to the principal: “Over the weekend, I married my same-sex partner,” what we’re urging those pastors to do is say: “well, I love you, and I wish you well, I’m going to be praying for you, but you can no longer work here.”
Well, under this new vision that the Supreme Court has dreamed up, that church will likely at least lose its tax-exempt status, but more likely, will suffer fines and jail time.
The City of Houston passed an equal rights ordinance, commonly referred to as HERO, and has been tied up in litigation ever since. Prepare for that scenario to play out in towns, cities, and counties, and perhaps at the state level in some places, over and over and over, with any law that can be imagined.
Scarborough’s interview also touched upon how his movement will draw upon, rather perversely, the language and tactics of the civil rights movement:
RS: I have a long list of about 80 leading other clerics signed to a full-page ad saying that we would civilly disobey this Supreme Court ruling.
AC: Can you detail what that would mean, that civil disobedience?
RS: Yes. It means that we’ll just keep doing what we’ve always done.
The Christian right fringe will paint itself as the victims of oppression, falling to the ground and writhing in pain while clutching its knee like any melodramatic basketball player trying desperately to turn a trip-and-fall into a foul against the other team. It almost seems the long game on textbooks naming Moses among the nation’s founding fathers is part of a strategy to tack the first amendment onto the ten commandments to give their complaints some shred of credibility.
Politicians will selectively enforce laws and manipulate regulations to obstruct progress. No doubt at least one county clerk who follows Paxton’s ill-conceived advice and attracts a lawsuit by doing so will engage in tactics like responding to Freedom of Information Act requests with claims of costs so high that legal remedies—not to mention reporting on violations—would be prohibitively expensive.
Will there be violence, demonstrators on sidewalks? While same-sex marriage and civil rights for the GLBTQIA community do not have a specific location analogous to abortion clinics that protesters and vandals can target, I would not be surprised to see an uptick in hate crimes directed at the community.
Count on organized hate groups like Scarborough’s Vision America saying what they always say in such instances—that violence and vandalism are the work of a lone wolf, someone who is sick, and someone for whom organized groups could never be responsible for inciting or inspiring.
One need only consider the list of crimes against abortion clinics to learn just how large a pack of “lone” wolves a movement can create.
They will isolate vulnerable targets first while exploiting disgusting and offensive stereotypes to rally the faithful.
Only after moving abortions out of hospitals and into clinics, and after imposing political limits on medical procedures, did the anti-abortion movement shift to challenging issues like contraception and cancer screening funds.
The fringe right will target the transgender community, people of color, and undocumented people who are part of the GLBTQIA community, knowing they lack the institutional connections, access to funds, and broad-based community support to fight back effectively.
That’s another reason their language on the marriage equality ruling shifted so quickly to employment discrimination. They understand that consenting adults getting married doesn’t have the same propaganda value as the specter of a homosexual coach in the locker room with your son’s football team.
After all, they never acknowledge the fact that the majority of women who have abortions are already mothers, or that they have abortions early in their pregnancies. Instead, they make up salaciously lies about wanton women using tax dollars to pay greedy doctors to kill babies.
What can we learn from the abortion and reproductive justice movement? We must push forward without allowing the other side to set the terms of the debate. Call for proactive legislation at the federal level to establish equal rights and employment protection. End the marginalization of communities of color, the undocumented, those in prison, and the most vulnerable in the community. Make their rights central to the work and present a united front, not a ‘here’s the best we can do right now for this subset of relatively privileged people’ front.
We should also never forget who fights against equal rights for the GLBTQIA community.
They are the same people and organizations that oppose changing the names of schools named for Confederate generals. They lobby for laws that ignore medical fact and restrict access to reproductive health care like abortion and birth control. And they will never, ever acknowledge that the words “well-regulated” were written with the same ink as the rest of the second amendment.
Identify allies. We can work together, learn from each other, and support each other. We should, and we must.
We can continue to celebrate, of course. Keep reaching for the rainbow.
Just don’t forget that the other side sees Obergefell as the beginning of a new phase in the war, not the conclusion of years’ of advocacy and organizing.