Three Questions That Destroy Bigoted County Clerks’ Charade.

Three Questions That Destroy Bigoted County Clerks’ Charade. July 21, 2015

I’m noticing more and more often that when faced with a huge and momentous defeat, particularly delusional and nasty Christians will just pretend they won anyway, and will behave accordingly. Nowhere do we see this tendency more clearly than we do with the recent developments in their culture war against LGBTQ rights, where they’ve definitively lost the biggest fight they could possibly field, but they still want the exact power they were definitively denied by that loss: the power to mistreat and discriminate against the very people they’ve been demonizing and bullying for decades. Denied that power, they’ll just try their best to wield it anyway. Not for nothing have LGBTQ activists and supporters rightly been warning for months that even though this victory seems to be in the bag, the fight’s not quite over yet–because these Christians aren’t quite done fighting yet.

Sometimes it’s best to just ignore some people. (Credit: Michael Gil, CC license.)

Kentucky’s county clerk’s office is already facing a lawsuit from four couples–two same-sex, two opposite-sex–because of its employees’ petulant little temper-tantrum over their side’s loss. The lawsuit is just getting rolling still but it promises to be yet another crushing loss for Christian bigots. The governor flat-out told the clerks there to do their jobs or resign, but it’s not enough to be bigots on their own time; it’s about humiliating and hurting LGBTQ people for Jesus. So naturally these bigots, now imagining themselves to be persecuted, refused the governor’s request.

Republican lawmakers in that state, of course, are doing everything they can to pander to “protect” these bigoted government employees, because if some delicate hothouse-flower of an agent of the state gets the vapors from the idea of two men or two women holding hands and swearing lifelong commitments to each other, then that fainting spell totally overrides another human being’s civil and human rights as a citizen of the United States. Moreover, these attacks of the vapors render null and void these government employees’ sworn oaths to uphold the law of the land.

Meanwhile, the Texas Attorney General, before the printer-toner ink had even dried on the SCOTUS decision, told his county clerks they could refuse to issue licenses based on their bigoted personal opinions about who exists as a valid citizen with rights and who does not. The AG got very excitable about how “lawless” he thought the Supreme Court decision was (because nothing says “lawful” like someone deciding to withhold rights from others based on a poorly-considered personal opinion), but considering that he himself is apparently breaking securities laws to the point where his own lawless, hypocritical ass might be getting indicted here soon, I reckon we shouldn’t be surprised that he didn’t say much else at all about the subject after his initial saber-rattling. I still was pretty surprised when I went looking for further news about it. After his blustering and bellowing about how harrrrrrd he’d fight to preserve marriage as straights-only, you’d think there’d be something, but no, it’s been radio silence. Haven’t we mentioned that before, though? These sorts of Christians are very good at blustering and bellowing, but not so good at follow-through. Thank goodness.*

I’m sure without even looking that there are lots of other Christian bigots busily cloaking their desire to lash out against and control others in their favorite new phrase, “religious freedom.” Mistreating people for Jesus used to be called “conscience,” but I think they figure “religious freedom” sounds more Constitutional-y so that’s what they’ve been going with for a while.

But I saw an image not long ago that really put things into perspective for me. I don’t know what the permissions are on the original so I can’t reproduce it here, but credit for the image goes to a fellow named John Berry (who might be this openly gay ambassador, but the site listed on the image is down–feel free to chime in below if you know!). It asks one of those questions that, once I’d seen it asked, made it impossible for me to see this issue of disobedient county clerks in any other way other than them behaving as petulant bullies.

Before we get started, let’s get this out of the way now:

These bigoted county clerks and their lawmakers and attorneys general are not protecting “traditional marriage.” They might even think they are–and they might think that with all their hearts–and I respect that they might think so. But that’s not what they’re actually doing.

Hell, they don’t even appear to know what the term “traditional marriage” means. I say that because traditional marriage is actually pretty crappy–especially for women. I don’t think most Christians would ever sign off on it if they knew what the sheer misery it involves. (See this paper for a wealth of information about historical laws around marriage in the United States.) Let’s just say that there’s a damned fine reason why we changed those laws into what we have nowadays. The phrase is just something their irresponsible leaders started saying, it’s a nice and easy-to-remember catchphrase that sounds properly indignant and faux-persecuted, and they do after all like tradition plenty fine, so they latched onto it. In particular, the female Kentucky county clerks whining so much right now about having to serve same-sex couples very likely wouldn’t even be working in their nice, cushy government jobs if “traditional marriage” was the law of our land still. If they had any idea what the term even meant, they wouldn’t be clamoring so much for it or working this hard to defend it, much like how anti-abortion activists would not want to live in the dystopian, totalitarian hellhole of a society that would be created if the “personhood” laws they think they want actually passed.

No, what these county clerks are doing isn’t about trying to protect marriage or protecting anybody’s religious freedoms. Marriage and religious freedom aren’t in any kind of trouble in America (despite what panicking fundagelicals think) and certainly neither of them needs the protection of these self-appointed pencil-pushing paladins of paperwork.**

Please pardon a fit of bolding because I really want this to stand out:

They’re just trying to be horrifically nasty to gay people in one of the very few ways they have left, even if it totally alienates their own peers, causes loving Christians to flee their ranks, and turns non-believers off even more to the idea of joining their religion. They’re flexing their muscles to feel powerful and superior, to seize back whatever they can of their imagined onetime superiority, and to hurt their enemies as much as they can before their power to do so gets completely curtailed. They think if they can be nasty enough to LGBTQ people, then all those people and their supporters will just fade away out of sheer shame and humiliation and their disappearance–a sort of reverse Rapture–will usher in a new era of Christian cultural dominance and Everything Will Go Back To The Way It Was Before All This Scary Cultural Change Started Happening.

Without further ado, here are the questions that I think illustrate exactly how these county clerks are talking out of their asses when they sanctimoniously claim to be motivated solely by a desire to serve Jesus Christ by enforcing his will on others whether they like it or not.

1. Do you remember when Christian bigots worked as hard to encourage ANY COUPLES to get married as they do to prevent SAME-SEX COUPLES from getting married?

Oh, sometimes you’ll see right-wing Christians try to force women to marry by encouraging shame-peddling, ignorance-promoting “abstinence-based sex education” (scare quotes because it’s not really educational in any way), which promotes the erroneous idea that contraception is bad for women in a variety of ways, which causes a lot more unplanned pregnancies–which, combined with freakishly restrictive abortion-access laws, will–right-wing Christians think and hope–force women to marry their babydaddies, which will soon turn back the clock, usher in a new Renaissance of 1950s famblee values, and put right-wing Christians at the top of the cultural heap, where they think they belong and where they think they used to be.

But substantive measures aimed at promoting the idea of marrying? Not so much. Terrorizing and strong-arming they’re eager to do and (let’s be fair) good at doing, but giving couples good reasons to marry or helping existing married couples flourish doesn’t appear to be on their plate. I looked but couldn’t find a single substantive thing these groups are doing that would actually accomplish the goal of making marriage look more appealing to their chosen demographic of opposite-sex couples. Looking at the Family Research Council’s writeup on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s site, it seems clear that the whole extent of their advocacy for “traditional marriage” is fighting tooth and nail against granting same-sex couples access to their right to marry–and harassing and demonizing those people as much as humanly possible.

I find it very hard to believe that same-sex couples’ marriage rates have a single thing to do with opposite-sex couples’ marriage rates. Preventing one group from marrying doesn’t increase another group’s desire to marry. In fact, some opposite-sex couples I know were refusing to get married specifically because their states refused to allow same-sex couples to get married too, so the effect worked in totally the opposite way that these Christians imagined.

But bigots don’t care about what opposite-sex couples do.

They only care about what same-sex couples do.

Talk about being more excited about the speck in others’ eyes than by the plank in one’s own!

2. Do you remember when Christian county clerks refused to process divorce papers?

This was the original question that got my thought train out of the station, and here, too, bigoted Christians’ sole contribution to solving their perceived problem is a terrible one: when they engage with the question of divorce at all, it is to specifically try to make divorce more of a bloody hindering hassle for women particularly to obtain, since they seriously seem to think that evil nasty slutty wives “surprise” their adoring, loving, totally innocent poor widdle hardworking husbands with whimsical, capricious divorce demands out of the clear blue sky, probably after watching too many episodes of Real Housewives of Omaha. We’ve noted before fundagelicals’ deep hatred of no-fault divorce, but apparently they have more than a little to do with the rise of these laws in the United States–whoopsie! But then this is the FRC talking, so take with a grain of salt; their main contention here is that when conservative Christians apparently heralded in no-fault divorce, they made the United States more like Communist Russia–no, really, because forcing women to remain trapped in terrible marriages is what a god-fearing country dedicated to personal liberty and freedom totally would and should do. (As Jesus said, after all, people will know Christians by their staunch opposition to old-school Communism.)

If Christian bigots actually worked hard to help create lasting, healthy marriages instead of spending all their time hassling same-sex couples, just imagine how many marriages they might save! There are a lot more opposite-sex couples out there than same-sex couples; the number of same-sex couples wishing to marry is probably fairly low overall. Christian bigots are wasting all this time, money, and energy attacking one very small group that isn’t actually even bothering, altering, or influencing opposite-sex couples’ marriages. It seems like a huge waste in every way.

But the problem gets worse. If Christian bigots actually did ever end up getting equal marriage abolished, how would that actually help marriage generally? I don’t know of any Christian leaders currently opposing same-sex marriage who would have said, 10-15 years ago before LGBTQ rights got seriously rolling, that marriage was doing totally fine. Even in the 1980s Christian leaders were wringing their hands and convinced that America was heading straight for hell in a handbasket because of its citizens’ lax attitudes about marriage, divorce, and sex in general. Without same-sex marriage rights, opposite-sex couples would still be cheating on each other, divorcing each other, and struggling to stay together. Do you suppose that knowing their gay neighbors could marry would instantly send opposite-sex couples all over the country into a panic and make them divorce? Do you suppose that learning that their gay neighbors could not marry would help any other couples resolve their conflicts and stay married? If so, I’d say those couples have much bigger problems than whether totally unrelated people have civil rights or not.

Like right-wing Christians’ constant and tireless (not to mention inept and fruitless) efforts to try to prove Creationism’s claims, this attack on equal marriage does not actually accomplish a single thing other than making people both in and out of the religion despise and distrust fundagelicals even more than they do already. So it’s just baffling to see that these bigots’ leaders are on record as saying that same-sex marriage is an even worse threat to the institution of marriage than any number of opposite-sex couples divorcing or cohabiting. You heard me right. Think of all the couples divorcing and cohabiting. Think of all the millions of people marrying–and all the many hundreds of thousands of people divorcing in our country. Notice, too, that the divorces appear to be declining in number–an interesting correlation alongside the increasing secularization of America. This trend was happening before marriage equality happened, and it will probably keep happening–just like that increased secularization will.

If Christians were really worried about divorce, if they were really wanting to help lower divorce rates, then the last thing they’d want to do is waste time fighting same-sex couples’ right to marry. It makes about as much sense as a crusade to improve marriage by lobbying for better-tasting orange juice or a gritty reboot of Space Cruiser Yamato. And those would both still have more impact on a given opposite-sex couple’s marriage than what any other people did or didn’t do regarding relationships, because what a given couple drinks and watches on TV is at least relevant to them personally.

3. Do you remember when fervent Christians as a whole worried more about how much food poor kids ate every day than about what any parents’ bedroom lives looked like?

Go check out that CDC link again. Yearly, we see about 800,000 divorces. Most of those divorces probably involve kids, which is of course the main favorite argument of anti-gay bigots against allowing same-sex couples to marry–the long-debunked idea that they’re somehow ill-suited parents or that children have some nebulous “right” to opposite-sexed parents that means that same-sex couples must be deprived of their own personal rights (interesting how often that kind of argument crops up for the Religious Right, isn’t it?). Do Christian bigots care about these kids or not? If so, then why would they ever care what a few thousand same-sex couples do when there are many hundreds of thousands of potential problems occurring every single year due to the efforts of opposite-sex couples?

Here, again, we see that nothing whatsoever these groups are doing is actually ever going to materially help any child ever anywhere in the country. Denying people their rights as parents seems like the opposite of helpful to me. Forcing children to see their own parents getting treated as substandard seems like sheer cruelty. Working tirelessly to deny benefits to same-sex couples seems like it’d directly negatively impact those children, too. It’s weird that Christians don’t even see any of that. Nor are they going to start protecting children by ensuring they get adequate healthcare, food, and housing. Nope, their form of “protection” is solely about preventing gay people from becoming and being parents.

The Christianist-dominated Republican Party of my country is very, very, very excited about ending women’s access to reliable contraception and safe abortion. They’re eager to end pretty much all social programs aimed at doing exactly what Jesus told his followers to do. They’re merrily trying to set into motion a culture where people are uneducated, poor, and forced to have children they’re not ready to have–a prescription for divorce and childhood chaos. Absolutely nothing on this grotesque to-do list will help children at all in any way, though it does seem absolutely certain to hurt them.

With all this in mind, it’s particularly satisfying to me to see judges up and down the court system smacking down the Christians still trying to claim that they’re blocking LGBTQ people’s rights “for the children,” as indeed the Supreme Court noted in its landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, taking on and dismantling those shitty and disingenuous arguments one at a time–as numerous judges before them have done.

So not only do I not believe that Christian bigots are acting out of any desire to increase marriage rates among opposite-sex couples, to lower divorce rates somehow, or to help children in some vague, nebulous way, but I don’t even feel the need to pretend along with them that I believe their stated motivations. Yet again, we see that what they’re saying and doing doesn’t match what they say they want to accomplish. The real agenda becomes crystal-clear when we look at their misplaced priorities.

But I don’t see them dropping this charade any time soon. Quite literally, it is all they’ve got left. Sometimes when I read Christian bigots’ screeds and rhetoric, I’m struck by this impression that they’re giving everyone this wide-eyed innocent look and nodding slowly at their audience to gain compliance with what they’re claiming, like everyone’s in on the joke but must maintain appearances, like these bigots need the rest of us to pretend along with them in order to help them scam their real mark.

Well, I’m not interested in pretendy funtime games played with real life people against their will. If toxic Christians want a big game of Please Humor Us While We’re Being Selectively Blind Bullies, they’re going to need to find other playmates and quit wasting the rest of our time. One by one, their excuses and stalling tactics are getting thrown aside to reveal them as the grasping, power-mad hypocritical bullies they truly are at heart.

Sooner or later the charade has to end. There can’t possibly be that many roadblocks left for them to throw in the path of equality for all Americans. Sooner or later they’ll have to get up off their fainting couches and join the rest of us as we move forward.

The utterly hilarious part? Quite a few Christians are already holding our hands as we march forward, to their more toxic brethren’s utter dismay. How are they supposed to oppress people in the name of Jesus when so many of them are refusing to oppress people for the same reason? Oh noes!

Every single day, more and more people start wondering:

So… do you remember any of those things?

And answering:

Yeah, me neither.


* I’m not complaining, don’t get me wrong; so often their inability to lay aside every weight, and the sin that does so easily beset them, and run with patience the race set before them works entirely in our favor because they scream and holler about some massive crusade they’re setting off on, then get distracted by reality television, Facebook, and Doritos.

** Yes, that was actually very fun to write.

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