The Christian Reconstructionists and Dominionists of the Center for Arizona Policy and its legal arm, the Alliance Defending Freedom, who supported Arizona’s SB 1062 — the right to discriminate against gays and anyone else I hate because “religious liberty!” — are borrowing a page from the Southern Segregationists following the Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decision in 1954. They are following a plan of massive resistance to the federal courts for striking down same-sex marriage bans.
In fact, they are not even subtle about it. Pastor Scott Lively and Brian Camenker have long had an organization called MassResistance(.org) and MassResistance(.net), a Waltham, Massachusetts-based group that promotes socially conservative positions on issues relating to homosexuality, abortion, anti-bullying, gun control, the transgender community and same-sex marriage.
The Arizona Republic reports today that, despite the national furor over SB 1062 this past Spring, the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom is encouraging court clerks in Arizona and elsewhere to engage in mass resistance against marriage equality. Memo to clerks: You can object to gay marriage:
The conservative group that handled the legal defense of Arizona’s overturned gay-marriage ban is advising court clerks they don’t have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if the clerk has religious or moral objections.
Four days after same-sex couples were allowed to marry for the first time in Arizona, the Maricopa County Clerk of the Court’s Office said one employee has already made such a request. And the issue may be headed for the legislative agenda.
As I said the other day, substitute race, nationality, or religious beliefs for sexual preference or gender identity and see how well received this would by the general public. Court Clerk: “Sorry, but I refuse service on religious objections to [ pick one: Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc.]”
Yet this is where the so-called “religious liberty” to discriminate against others based upon a “sincerely held religious belief” will invariably lead. There are no grounds to accept this behavior from a pubic employee of the government — this gives it the imprimatur of state-sanctioned discrimination.
The memo issued Wednesday by Alliance Defending Freedom echoes some provisions in this year’s controversial Senate Bill 1062, which would have offered a legal defense for individuals and businesses facing discrimination lawsuits if they could have proved they acted upon a “sincerely held religious belief.” Critics called it a defense of discrimination, triggering widespread protests that led to the bill’s veto by Gov. Jan Brewer.
Kellie Fiedorek, a Washington D.C.-based attorney with the alliance, said the memo has nothing to do with SB 1062, but is simply a reminder of federal protections for government workers.
If people need protection from being forced by government to do something that violates their consciences, a law may be appropriate, said Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, who counts himself among the Legislature’s social conservatives.
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Earlier this week, House Speaker Pro Tem J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, told the Arizona Capitol Times that the issue of how to protect businesses from being forced to work with groups with whom they have a moral objection will need to be addressed.
In addition to SB 1062, the Arizona legislature also killed Rep. Steve Montenegro’s bill, HB 2481, which sought to make it illegal for government to “require a minister to solemnize a marriage that is inconsistent with the minister’s sincerely held religious beliefs.” The bill was touted as an attempt to protect religious freedom among clergy and judges, who are public servants and in many cases elected officials. I wonder where Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Herrod stands on public servants marrying same-sex couples.
The alliance’s memo reminds court clerks that although their offices have to carry out the law, staffers who have religious objections can opt out. The duties can be handled by other staffers, Fiedorek said.
“(A)n employer must make reasonable adjustments to the work environment, or to the employee’s job requirements, to ensure that the employee’s ability to maintain his or her religious conscience remains unimpeded,” the memo states.
The Alliance also sent the memo to court clerks in Idaho, Nevada and North Carolina, where courts have recently overturned bans on gay marriage.
The issue is already stirring up concerns in other states: Today, the American Civil Liberties Union is hosting a teleconference to discuss cases where individuals and businesses (such as wedding chapels) are refusing to marry gay couples.
“While religious freedom is a fundamental American value and all persons are entitled to their religious beliefs, this right does not give anyone the right to harm or discriminate against other people,” the ACLU said in announcing its briefing.
Phoenix attorney Dan Barr, who represented plaintiffs in one of the cases challenging Arizona’s ban on gay marriage, called the memo a sore-loser tactic.
“It’s stupid,” Barr said. “These people have lost and now they’re sending out this letter saying you don’t have to stamp a form — how often is that going to happen?”
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[Chris Kelly, chief deputy clerk of the Maricopa County Clerk’s Office] said the issue has prompted the Clerk’s Office to think about how to handle conscience-based objections on a whole host of issues, such as the death penalty. On Wednesday, the office asked Attorney General Tom Horne for guidance. [Oh, no.]
Fiedorek said federal law allows court clerks to deputize others, such as town clerks or justices of the peace, to issue marriage licenses if everyone in a court clerk’s office cited religious objections.
Although SB 1062 won easy passage earlier this year in the Legislature, it might be difficult to revisit the issue, given the storm of protest it ignited.
Religious zealots are never deterred by a setback. They see it as a test of their faith: if only their faith had been stronger and they believed more strongly, they would have succeeded. They do not care about the firestorm of protest from this past Spring. For the self-righteous, it is is a question of faith — or in the case of the Center for Arizona Policy and the Alliance Defending Freedom, fund raising off the faithful so their executive officers can continue to live handsomely. They will keep coming back to try again, it is the reason for their existence.
I would recommend you reread a post I did from October 2013. Republicans on the modern GOP: An anti-government, Neo-Confederate insurrectionist party of radicals. And this is the view of Republicans who are disgusted with the extremism of the GOP.