Ohio currently denies same-sex couples the right to marry and leaves the opportunity open for employers and proprietors to discriminate against gay people at will, which of course they do. Attorney General Mike DeWine is fighting tooth and nail before the U.S. Supreme Court to deny gay people married in other states the right to be named on their partner’s death certificate or their child’s birth certificate.
And that’s all just fine and dandy with Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
“I think we’re doing fine in Ohio. Everybody’s opinion has to be respected in all of this and we have to strike a balance,” Kasich was quoted by the Columbus Dispatch as saying. “I think we have a good balance in Ohio and I don’t see a reason to do any more.”
‘Twas only February last year, after Arizona’s pro-discrimination law blew up in their face, that Ohio lawmakers scuttled their own “religious freedom” legislation.
This year, Indiana paid the righteous price of public scorn for attempting to codify discrimination into Hoosier state law. When asked whether he would push for Ohio to again pursue the same course, John Richard Kasich fired up his high-powered political acumen and determined that, well, maybe Ohio doesn’t need to go any further pushing for discrimination that is already perfectly allowable.
You think we have a good balance in Ohio now, do you, Mr. Governor? I suppose when Kasich sees a child holding one side of a teeter-totter down with his foot and the other child helplessly stranded in the air, he sees a good balance.
Kasich doesn’t see a reason to do any more because he knows that the deck is already stacked on the side of inequality and discrimination in Ohio. A pro-discrimination “religious freedom” bill would be redundant. As long as sexual orientation remains unlisted as a protected-class in Ohio, the door to discrimination is wide open.
But redundancy hasn’t stopped state Rep. Ron Maag, who sent a letter to colleagues this week asking if anybody would be interested in joining him in legislation that allows those licensed to sanctify marriages to discriminate against those they do not wish to marry.
Sometimes I sit in wonder: Are these conservatives attempting to shrewdly hijack the issue of “religious freedom,” or are they just stupid? Likely both.
No minister can be compelled to perform a marriage he or she doesn’t want to perform. That’s already the law. Any attempt to do so will fail. That’s what the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment is all about. In fact, the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is all the protection both of and from religion we have ever needed. It is the strongest constitutional assurance of religious freedom in the world.
Nevertheless, it’s a bugaboo among conservatives to pretend it is they who are persecuted and discriminated against and it is they who are in need of protection. Of course, as they lose the fight over equality their howls become more shrill and non-sensical. For instance, in the rare case that a so-called pastor has been legally required to refrain from discrimination, he was running a business not a church, which is a fundamental difference.
But as much as they like to pretend there’s some national conspiracy from something called “Big Gay” to force pastors to eat rainbow-colored wedding cake while they dance to the RENT soundtrack and marry gay people, it just isn’t happening in the real world.
In the interest of full-disclosure, I am an ordained minister, registered and licensed in Ohio. I’ve done my share of weddings, often for those looking for something beyond the confines of traditional religions. But the irony that I am given absolute legal authority to sanctify marriage under Ohio law, but am barred from marriage myself, I find both deeply hilarious and profoundly sad.
Unfortunately, Ohio law has fallen way behind the rest of the country on equality and we have a lot more work to be done. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide the fate over Ohio’s same-sex marriage ban, but with leaders like Kasich, DeWine and the majority party in the General Assembly, protection from discrimination as consumers or in employment is a long way down the road.
David DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure based out of Athens, Ohio. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He can be found on Twitter @TheRevDeWitt.