” …a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury Signifying nothing.” — Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5)
Whether from injuries suffered during World War II or hereditary illness, President Kennedy suffered nearly continuous back pain. His doctor recommended that he sit in rocking chairs, believing that rocking would alleviate the pain. There are hundreds of photos of the 35th president rocking while conducting government business. Kennedy got very little of his legislation through Congress, although he pushed it with notable energy and style until his untimely death. A comedian of that time suggested that JFK’s legislative agenda was like his rocking chair: “giving a feeling of motion without actually going anywhere.”
That tired old gag came to mind during the week since Governor Phil Bryant ignited a firestorm by signing HB 1523, which protects Mississippi individuals against any action by the state government under certain circumstances.
Specifically, the state of Mississippi cannot, in the future, punish you because you refuse to provide services for persons in same-sex marriages or for persons you suspect of having any kind of sexual relations outside of a conventional marriage between a man and a woman. Fornicators and self-abusers, the state of Mississippi will not in the future abuse those who abuse you! Mississippians may also refuse with impunity to do business with persons they suspect have undergone any procedure to change their original gender.
The official title of the new law is “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.”
Less than one year ago, on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a 5-4 decision that “same-sex” marriages are a fundamental right under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That day, in the ruling on the case styled Obergefell v. Hodges, it became the law in every state of the United States that men may marry men and women may marry women, and that those marriages enjoy the same protection and legal status as traditional marriages between men and women.
There is nothing to be gained by arguing here either for or against the Supreme Court’s decision. Like it or not, it is “settled law.” The legal argument has ended.
It is important to recognize, however, that the court’s decision was deplored by millions of Americans, especially by those who describe themselves as “conservative Christians.” It is also fair to say that many, perhaps a majority, of the people in Mississippi are among those who disagree strongly with the Obergefell v. Hodges decision.
Urged on by a wide range of Christian denominations, the state legislature and governor of Mississippi sought a way to somehow give some relief to those offended by the Supreme Court decision. Mississippi lawmakers concocted the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” in response to those demands from state pulpits.
Those Mississippians opposed to same-sex marriage rejoiced when the governor signed the new law. They believed that they had won a victory, that a blow had been struck for righteousness.
That celebration was countered around the nation by an outcry from those who support the Supreme Court decision. It would not be too far from the literal truth to say that “all hell has broken loose” during the last few days. Entertainers have vowed that they will no longer perform in Mississippi. Other state governments, private corporations and professional associations have threatened that they will not do business in Mississippi or with Mississippians because of their outrage over HB 1523.
Some estimate that billions of dollars of business that would otherwise have flowed into our state have been lost because of this act by our state government. Yesterday it was announced the big annual “Mississippi Picnic” in Central Park in New York city has been cancelled by those who have sponsored the event for the last 36 years.
The simple fact is that these Mississippians, these sincere and devout Christian people who oppose same-sex marriage have received yet another empty and meaningless gesture from their state government. The gift wrapping is gaudy, though sloppy, and the box is empty.
Here, in one sentence, is what the law provides: it promises that the state of Mississippi will not do in the future what it has never done in the past. That’s it.“Tha-tha-tha-That’s all, folks!”
The state of Mississippi has never penalized anyone, private person or state employee, for failure to do business or provide a service for two people of the same sex who want to get married. It’s never happened, and now they assure that it never will.
Here, on the other hand, is what the law does not do: it does not in any way relieve Mississippians from obeying the ruling of the United States Supreme Court. If a Mississippi circuit court clerk, for example, refuses to issue a marriage license to two men who want to get married, those two men can still sue that circuit clerk under federal law and they can win. The U.S. Attorney in Oxford can still indict, try and convict that clerk in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi for failure to obey the federal law regarding the rights of homosexual couples.
The state government of Mississippi can and will do the following for you if you are sued or arrested for failure to obey the federal law: nothing, nada, zilch, zero. The governor will not send the National Guard to snatch you from the clutches of a U.S. Marshal or FBI agent who comes to arrest you. Governor Bryant will not send a state trooper or a game warden, not even the convict who cooked his bacon and eggs this morning, to assist you in any way if you violate federal law, including the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. You will face the awesome power of the government of the United States all by yourself, and good luck to you.
Smart individuals and corporations, smart law enforcement officers, smart public officials in Mississippi are in no way deceived by the phony “rights” or “protections” granted to them by this strutting, chest-beating governor and the smug, puffed up “leadership” in the state legislature.
Like President Kennedy’s famous rocking chair, Mississippi’s “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” gives an illusion of motion without actually going anywhere. Unfortunately, this rocking chair crafted by Governor Bryant and the state legislature has rocked back hard on the tail of a very angry, very powerful creature, one able to snatch away large chunks of our flesh and bone and sinew.
Whether the beast is good or evil, the state’s highest officials have insulted it, have made it a very dangerous creature while making a cynical, empty gesture to millions of sincere Mississippians–political pandering at its worst. They have exposed us to huge potential losses while pulling the wool over our eyes and, apparently, their own.
Find this hard to believe? Read the entire text of the law signed by the governor. Read it carefully, line by line at: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2016/pdf/HB/1500-1599/HB1523SG.pdf
Here are links to a sampling of thoughts by Union County people on both sides of this controversial issue:
HUDSON HICKMAN, MOTION PICTURE PRODUCER
MARGARET ROGERS STATE REPRESENTATIVE, UNION COUNTY, DISTRICT 14
GREG SPENCER SENIOR PASTOR, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, NEW ALBANY
GREGORY SMITHASSOCIATE PASTOR, FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH OF NEW ALBANY
ELDER ROGER BROWNING PASTOR, CLEVELAND STREET PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
PHYLLIS STANFORD, CIRCUIT CLERK OF UNION COUNTY MS