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Save in one respect, Reno’s essay on Kim Davis is excellent

September 5, 2015

Rusty Reno has a fine essay over at First Things addressing the Kim Davis matter. I differ, however, with one paragraph therein. Reno writes: When the Supreme Court issued its decree, American civil law ceased to define marriage and instead became a law of civil unions, with the word “marriage” now having no real meaning. With that sort of reasoning, I might be able to wiggle my way toward signing licenses that say “marriage” but really mean “civil union.”

I wish the Supreme Court had only enshrined same-sex civil unions in law; such a ruling we might have lived with. But that is not what the Court did. Instead five justices imposed on marriage (true marriage, natural marriage, traditional marriage, whatever pleonastic phrase one wishes to use) the lie that marriage includes the union of two persons of the same sex. This judicially imposed lie is not a ‘little white lie’ that might allow one to hide a surprise birthday party, it is not a ‘public figure lie’ (half of which aren’t true in the first place), and it is not even a ‘planted lie’ designed to deceive military enemies or dangerous criminals. Instead, the Court has published a naked, gross falsehood that tears simultaneously at the fabric of law, language, family, and society.

The word marriage has, and will always have, an objectively true meaning—no matter how many times it has been degraded by sinful societies (usually by its legal institutions but more lately by its mass media) and by many recalcitrant individuals (including some religious leaders). Justice Kennedy’s atrocious prose in Obergefell can no more deprive marriage of its meaning than, say, Barney’s insipid theme song (“I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family”) can deprive family of its meaning. Instead, Kennedy the Judge and Barney the Dinosaur teach something seriously false about marriage and family. But while Barney’s lyrics simply make one queasy, Kennedy’s words are now the pretext to throw people who do not accept his lie into jail.

The actual text of whatever document one is called upon to sign or certify is crucial to determining whether one may sign or certify it. I’ve not seen a Kentucky marriage license and so defer to those who have. But this much is certain: any document that declares two people of the same sex to be married, one may not sign or certify.

With that caveat in mind, again, I recommend reading Reno’s important essay.

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