Back in 2013, I wrote: “Generations from now, Americans living in a marriage-equality culture will marvel at the anti-gay reactionaries of the early 21st century.”
But hey, no need for us to wait that long. Let’s marvel right now.
Welcome to another manifestation of bigotry’s last stand. This story takes place in Florida (natch), where some people in public office think that their religious convictions empower them to discriminate against certain members of the public.
Case in point: Duval County Clerk Ronnie Fussell, whose realm includes the city of Jacksonville. When Fussell ran for office in ’12, he promised that “as clerk, I will endeavor to make every customer feel respected and well served in his or her interaction with this office.”
“Every customer” who’s straight, anyway.
Gay marriage is now legal in Florida, thanks to a series of judicial rulings. But gay couples who want to get married in the Duval County clerk’s office are out of luck, because Fussell and his staffers refuse to officiate the civil ceremonies. At least a dozen other county clerks have similarly barred the door. Fussell said the decision was quite simple: “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. Personally, it would go against my beliefs to perform a ceremony that is other than that.”
Fussell, and the others, came up with a solution (of sorts). They didn’t want to be perceived as singling out gays, so they decided to abolish all courthouse ceremonies. Roughly 2,000 straight couples get married at the Duval courthouse every year – but no longer. To keep the gay at bay, Fussell will now turn all the straights away. All courthouse ceremonies, gone. Problem solved.
Courthouse ceremonies cost $30 apiece, which means that Fussell is canceling roughly $60,000 a yar in county revenue – but hey, morality trumps money. Fussell explained to the press, “It was decided as a team, as an office, that this would be what we do, so that there wouldn’t be any discrimination. The easiest way is not to do them at all.”
Gee, what does that ‘tude remind me of….oh yeah:
It’s a callback to 1958. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of education equality, desegregating the schools in Brown v. Board of Education, the state of Virginia came up with a clever solution. Instead of desegregating its schools, it simply closed the schools. In other words, to ensure that black kids wouldn’t get in, the state decreed that no white kids would get in, either. Problem solved.
But we don’t need to go back as far as ’58. Let’s fast-forward to Oklahoma, 2013. After the Pentagon ruled that gay spouses in all branches of the U.S. military, including the National Guard, could apply for health care and housing benefits, Gov. Mary Fallin decided that she didn’t want gay spouses applying for benefits at the Guard facilities on her soil. So she simply decreed that no applicants, straight or gay, would be able to use the Guard facilities for that purpose anymore. Problem solved.
Fussell’s twisted solution is in the same spirit. To ensure that gays don’t get married in front of him, a scene that revoltingly offends his personal beliefs, he has thus barred straights from bonding in front of him as well.
Granted, the Florida counties’ bans on all ceremonies isn’t the biggest deal in the world – straight and gay couples can stage their ceremonies somewhere else; Fussell, bowing to the rule of law, is issuing gay marriage licenses – but nevertheless we can only marvel at this petty retreat to the last bunker of bigotry. And, besides, there’s a serious issue here:
Where do these clerks get off, anyway? Tasked with serving the public, and paid with public funds, who are they to impose their religious and moral beliefs on the public? That’s not in their job description. If it would indeed offend their beliefs to perform civil gay marriage ceremonies in a state where gay marriage is legal, there really is a rational solution:
Just quit. Give these public jobs to people who won’t practice homophobia on the public dime. Problem solved!
More Florida fun, this time in Pinellas County: For two months, nobody noticed that the seal on the rug in the sheriff’s office lobby read, “In Dog We Trust.” Although I’d cop to that belief.
In other news, Pope Francis said on his plane yesterday that man-made climate change is real, that “it is man who has slapped nature in the face.” No word yet on whether Republicans will try to primary him from the right.