I couldn’t bear to watch Indiana Public TV Friday night. A couple of hours of PBS and WFYI public affairs coverage used to be my Friday evening routine.
Indiana has a statute that defines marriage as involving one man and one woman. HJR 3 seeks to make that more unassailable by putting it in the Indiana Constitution. I’m not sure that will work. The way litigation has been working these days, it might even bring down our current definition more rapidly, but that’s not my main topic.
Recall, please, Thursday’s lead paragraph:
… In 2002, some may remember, there was a horrific discovery that a crematory in Georgia had failed to cremate over 300 corpses, and instead had strewn the bodies around the crematory’s grounds. An article in the New York Times described the prosecutor’s conundrum: there was no law on the books against failure to perform cremation by which the owner could be directly prosecuted. … until that occurrence, no law existed because the behavior was inconceivable.
One of the competing slogans in the debate over HJR 3 is “we shouldn’t put discrimination in the Constitution.” Well, when Georgia worked on a law to make it a crime to take money for cremation but spread people around on the ground like fertilizer instead, were they “putting discrimination in” their law, or were they responding rationally to an unprecedented situation, one previously unaddressed by the law, simply because the behavior was inconceivable before?
An old paradoxical maxim is “the law isn’t passed until it’s broken.” Think about those corpses on the ground, and I think you’ll understand someone saying “there ought to be a law.”
That’s what HJR 3 is about in the marriage realm. (Well, maybe it’s also about thing like “galvanizing the GOP base,” too, but I’m speaking from the perspective of hoi polloi, not cynics).
I can’t exactly say “nobody thought of gay marriage until 20 (or 30, or even 40) years ago,” because there was the little 1971 matter of Baker v. Nelson. “Little matter” is just right; although the Minnesota Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion that there was no federal right to SSM technically brought the case to SCOTUS by mandatory appellate review rather than certiorari, SCOTUS’ dismissal for “want of a substantial federal question” was binding precedent and amounted to the “back of the hand” for a silly argument.
So: No need for any new law yet in 1971. Everything was under control. Christendom’s construal of marriage appeared unscathed. I’d venture a guess that many state laws on marriage licenses didn’t even mention “man and woman,” so taken-for-granted was that.
A corollary to “don’t put discrimination in the Constitution” is “mean-spirited” and “hate” and “phobia,” and their various conjugations and permutations (e.g., “mean-spirited hate-filled hateful homophobics”).
But there’s another maxim, this one not from law but reportedly from France (whence it came to me as witticism, not maxim): Cet animal est tres mechant; quand on l’attaque, il se defend. (This animal is very wicked; when you attack it, it defends itself.) In a sense, Georgia defended itself against the attack of rogue crematories. Was Georgia being wicked? I mean, how does it harm you if a crematory substitutes the desecration of leaving bodies on the ground for the desecreatiion of deliberate immolation? (Oops! Another can of worms!) Does it hurt your marriage?
Now: If you can’t imagine how “Christians” – ranging from mere citizens of Christendom who don’t like change, through Mormon special attorneys general and fundamentalist or Calvinist theology wonks, to quiet but serious daily mass-goers – can see themselves as the defenders, not the attackers, then don’t talk to me about deficits in empathy.
Jim Bob Duggars and/or his wife Michelle (who, if you are unaware as I was 15 minutes ago, are reality TV figures with “19 and counting” children) are apparently in an ad supporting HJR 3. The Two-Minutes Hate (or at least snarky derision) has begun.
A self-employed “music engraver, freelance artist and calligrapher,” a supporter of Freedom Indiana, calls them “both undereducated” and wonders how they “would support their nineteen (and I hear she’s going to try for another 20th) children if he hadn’t whored his family to the media.” <countersnark>I can understand how a self-employed music engraver, freelance artist and calligrapher would be incredulous that a family of any size could be supported by work rather than prostitution.</countersnark>
If ya can suck me in like that, on a measure I’m obviously ambivalent about, this is gonna be a long and bitter fight.
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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)