Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy New Year, and follow the damn law

    We're a nation of laws, when convenient.
    If you're a conservative, for instance, trying to spin your fear of Hispanics into something noble, then respect for the rule of law is a hugely convenient fig leaf to cover your shame. You can cry a river over the stern demands of legality as you explain, again, how you would love to relieve the 11 million immigrants who live in a twilight limbo, would leap to give them hope for a measure of dignity and protection, but gosh, they entered the country illegally, and so the law requires them to be punished forever.. 
    It doesn't. But that's their story and they're sticking to it. 
    Except when the law cuts the other way -- say voters, and courts, and public officials, and basic human decency conspire to let gays out of their own second class cellar, at least when it comes to matrimony, suddenly the rule of law is a mere vapor, a frost of nothing, a hint to be accepted or rejected on an individual whim. Suddenly heroic government clerks and wedding cake bakers are applauded when they take it upon themselves to decide what laws to enforce and what laws to ignore. Individual morals matter, not the law. 
    That's their argument and they're sticking to it. I would suggest it's hard to have it both ways. Though I imagine that being a hypocrite with the self-awareness of a toaster must ease the process.
     Robert L. Hinkle, federal judge in Florida, issued a ruling Thursday—and good for him, or his staff anyway, for working New Year's Day —that addresses the situation in Florida, a state whose ban on gay marriages was found unconstitutional, but where clerks were nevertheless balking at actually issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. Hinkle's ruling, which you can read in full here, has a passage worth repeating:
    "History records no shortage of instances where state officials defied federal court orders on issues of federal constitutional law," the judge writes. "Happily, there are many more instances when responsible officials followed the law, like it or not. Reasonable people can debate whether the ruling in this case was correct and who it binds. There should be no debate, however, on the question whether a clerk of courts may follow the ruling. ... the Constitution requires the Clerk to issue such licenses." The judge ordered clerks statewide to do their jobs.
    The Florida ACLU called the order "a New Year's Day present from federal Judge Robert Hinkle."
    It's a present for everyone—maybe this is a contributing factor to those clerks dragging their feet.  Because any American citizen (or alien resident, for that matter) can get married in Florida. In fact, it's quicker for out-of-stater. In-state residents have a three-day waiting period and a funky training course they are encouraged to take. Out-of-staters can breeze right in without either. No residency requirement to get a marriage license in Florida, just a photo ID. The license will set you back $93.50. (If you want the full Florida marriage experience, go for the four-hour Florida Premarital Preparation Course designed to "increase your chances of creating a fulfilling, lasting marriage." I'm sure it's priceless and educational: traffic school meets Nathaniel West). The course costs $30, you can take it online, and they'll knock $32.50 off the cost of your license. Plus, if you're a Florida resident, taking the course entitles you to skip the three day waiting period to give residents a chance to decide if they really, really want to tie the knot. 
     The ceremony will set you back another $30. Plus they charge a buck for a copy of your marriage certificate, and you have to provide a stamped, self-addressed envelope to mail it to you.  
     Something to think about. The temperature in Miami was 84 degrees Thursday.
   

12 comments:

  1. It seems to me that many conservatives and liberals are "flexible" when it comes to various issues. Both are willing to use the government to enforce their views. Both are willing to break the law when they disagree with it. That's the tragedy of our politics.

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    1. Yet, it's the anti-government crowd who are most insistent on government intervention in the way of laws to enforce their bigotry, sorry, protect their values.

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    2. They'd reply in the same vein about about liberals using government to force people to violate what they consider to be their religious convictions.

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    3. Not understanding that religious convictions can be used as a smokescreen to cover almost any immoral behavior. An argument every cult leader sleeping with children has trotted out. Those whose religious scruples make them unable to function in society are welcome to leave it, like the Amish. Nobody forces them to drive, and they don't. But they don't work as bus drivers and refuse to drive.

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    4. While I am in favor of gays being able to marry, I am not sure that forcing people into a situation where they have to violate their conscience or lose their livelihood and leave society is a good answer.

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    5. Why not? If my conscience says that I can guiltlessly murder you, based on my sincere religious principles, how much do you believe society should respect my beliefs? Bigots force themselves into that situation. The problem is that society once catered to it, and now is drawing away in revulsion from it.

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    6. I don't think that most people would say that refusing to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple is the equivalent of killing someone else. And from a practical perspective, you cannot totally shut out of society the 38% or so who are opposed to gay marriage. There has to be some other alternative which does not leave gays in the position of second class citizens. But, I suspect you are right. Government sanctions will probably have to be used to compel businesses to treat gays fairly.

      From my perspective, it's such a stupid situation. If we are called to love our neighbors, then that extends to gays as well. Conservative religious groups have the right to ask their members to only have sex with their spouse of the opposite sex. That this often does not happen in practice is well known. But even if that were not the case, religious groups do not have the right to insist that everyone else must adhere to their particular principles.

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    7. try substituting "black" for "gay" in any of your above posts, david. still work for you?

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  2. More like traffic school meets Allen West

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  3. I read that some courthouses in some Florida counties are now refusing to perform *any* marriage ceremonies so that they don't have to get icky gay cooties all over them. They have to issue licenses to gay couples, but they can refuse to perform marriages, apparently, so long as they refuse everyone.

    Shades of Virginia closing its public schools to avoid having to integrate them. (They issued "tax vouchers" to white parents that could be used at white-only "private" schools. Every time I read someone advocate for vouchers, I think of that illustrious history.)

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  4. As a formal federal clerk, I can assure you that the judge, not just his staff, wrote that order. And I'm not so sure that the courthouses can even just get out of the wedding business. That didn't work when all the cities in the south decided to close down their public swimming pools rather than integrate them.

    But I'm really distracted by the stained glass windows, which must be Tiffany. From where?

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  5. OH no, anything but the puppets. ;)

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