Last Gasps of Legal Discrimination

Image of Oklahoma state Capitol building

Why can’t some Republicans here understand that it’s simply unconstitutional and morally wrong to codify and pass laws discriminating against people?

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution doesn’t leave a lot of room for argument:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The “equal protection of the laws” isn’t ambiguous. The sweeping inclusion of all “citizens of the United States” isn’t ambiguous. We might debate the concepts of “life, liberty and property,” but in the end the intention of the amendment seems clear. It doesn’t single out certain groups for its application or non-application.

But this hasn’t stopped some conservative Republicans from twisting U.S. District Judge Terence Kern’s recent ruling throwing out Oklahoma’s 2004 same-sex marriage ban into pathetic, ideological snippets of absurdity. Kern stayed the ruling, which is going through the appeal process so government-sanctioned same-sex marriages can’t be performed here yet.

The judge wrote: “Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed. It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions. Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to the individual constitutional rights.”

That should just be obvious to anyone.

In response, state Rep. Sally Kern (no relation to the judge), the Oklahoma City Republican who has made a political career out of her opposition to gay rights, said, “Homosexuality is not a civil right,” but that’s sheer nonsense. An intimate relationship between consenting adults is, indeed, a basic civil right, and legal marriage and divorce is regulated through license and the courts by the government.

State Rep. Mike Turner, an Edmond Republican, has even out-sallied Sally by introducing legislation that calls for another vote on a state constitutional amendment ensuring marriage is reserved for only heterosexual couples. He apparently told Michael Konopasek at News9 that actually doing away with government-regulated marriage is “something that would be part of the discussion.” In other words, the idea would be to end all marriage to prevent same-sex marriage. Really?

What’s the point of passing yet another unconstitutional state amendment conflicting with the U.S. Constitution? And, please, let’s get real about ending legal marriage here. That’s never going to happen. Would such a measure invalidate the thousands upon thousands of government-regulated marriages already in existence? Again, it’s nonsense.

The fact that there have been such extreme responses to the judge’s ruling shows how empty and shallow the opposition to same-sex marriage here has become.

Same-sex marriage has been legalized in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Same-sex marriage is also legally recognized by the federal government. It’s going to be the reality in Oklahoma sooner or later by federal edict or otherwise. Just because a majority group opposes the rights of a minority group doesn’t mean basic, blatant discrimination is legal.

Conservative politicians here should drop the gay-bashing and focus their attention on the numerous problems the state faces, including the drastic decline in education funding in recent years. I know it’s an election year, but cultural attitudes about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community have grown increasingly more tolerant across the country and even here. Republicans might think twice about running on the gays, guns and God mantra this year; polls show younger people are extremely tolerant of the LGBT community. Chris Cillizza, who writes The Fix for The Washington Post, outlined it here several months ago.