The Supreme Court in decision in favor of marriage equality requires that states allow same-sex couples to marry and recognize existing marriages from other states. Not all states are in support. Alabama, Texas, and Mississippi have expressed concerns about the decision.
Former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey, a partner at Coffey Burlington LLC in Miami, highlights dissenter’s concerns, expressed in Justice Antony Kennedy’s opinion. “He describes that the First Amendment provides protection of religious organizations and people so that they have proper protection in terms of adhering to their principles,” Coffey explained on Newsmax TV’s, The Steve Malzberg Show.
Coffey is on target with his observations—following the decision Mississippi Circuit Clerk Linda Barnette resigned from her job. “I cannot in all good conscience issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples under my name because the Bible clearly teaches that homosexuality is contrary to God’s plan and purpose for marriage and family,” she said.
Obergefell v Hodges and Growing Support Marriage Equality
James Obergefell and John Arthur waned their marriage recognized in their home state of Ohio. Their personal story may have contributed to the sudden increase support of the issue. The couple wanted to be buried next to each other in Arthur’s family plot, which only allows spouses and family members.
Statistician Nate Silver research shows that in 2004 only 31 percent of Americans supported gay marriage. The figure had increased to 57% by 2014. “Probably one-half to two-thirds of the rise in support for gay marriage has been a result of people changing their minds on the issue,” he says.
The 6th Circuit Court’s 2014 ruling upheld marriage bans in Ohio and forced the couple to marry out of state. They reasoned that since Ohio recognized out-of-state marriages theirs would also be recognized. At the time Arthur was in hospice with complications from ALS. Soon after marrying the couple joined a lawsuit against the state.
Does Marriage Equality Mean Equality For All?
Evan Wolfson is as civil right attorney and founder of Freedom to Marry, a marriage equality advocacy organization. “I pushed the marriage issue because I believed it could be an engine of transformation,” he said in recent CBS News interview.
Focusing on a single issue has alienated some activists. As LGBT Program Director at Media Matters for America, Carlos Maza said the community worried, “that the fight over marriage was crowding out concerns about more basic legal protections like non-discrimination laws and protections for transgender people.”
Attorney Kendall Coffey observes that the ruling has energized opponents of marriage equality and caused them to consider non-discrimination laws from the perspective of religious freedom. “Under some state laws they have fined or they have punished people who, for example, did not want to participate in a gay marriage as a photographer or florist, things like that based on what were apparently sincerely held religious principles,” he said.
Coffey’s observations bring Justice Kennedy’s majority into sharp focus. Who will be treated equally after this decision? Since, as Kennedy’s writes, “The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times.”