As it has become more apparent that the religious right is getting boatraced in the battle for marriage equality, the culture warriors’ argument has boiled down to two points. First, Obergefell v. Hodges isn’t legitimate because the Supreme Court can’t make law. Second, those fighting against marriage equality are taking up the same mantle as civil rights leaders. Well, a prominent Christianist attorney gave us both arguments for the price of one in April.
People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch discovered that Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver–best known as Kim Davis’ lead attorney–was one of the keynote speakers at a banquet sponsored by People Concerned for the Unborn Child, a prominent pro-life group in Pennsylvania. However, Staver’s talk quickly turned to the marriage equality struggle. Right Wing Watch got a clip.
Staver declared that social conservatives are at a crossroads–they have to “make a decision whether we will obey God or we will obey man.” He claimed that it was the same decision faced by prominent anti-Nazi pastors Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemoller, as well as Martin Luther King.
Staver argued that this question is especially stark when God and man “directly, inherently, irrevocably collide with one another.” Then, he argued, Christians must take the same stand as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednigo, and Esther. The message was clear–just like they refused to knuckle under, they can’t knuckle under to the gay rights cause.
Staver blasted Obergefell as “a lawless opinion,” saying that it came two years after the Supremes said states had the right to define marriage. He believed it was time to “stop playing charades” on this issue, arguing that just because a five-justice majority ruled in favor of marriage equality, it isn’t law. As far as Staver is concerned, anyone who thinks marriage equality is law would have no problem with two of the worst decisions in Supreme Court history.
“If that’s your belief system, if you have gotten so brainwashed to think that whatever those five people in Washington, D.C., say, we now have to march to it like toy soldiers because if they say so, irrespective of the fact that they have no authority under the Constitution to do it, then you would support Dred Scott, you would support Buck v. Bell, because those decisions came down from the United States Supreme Court as well.”
While most of us have heard of Dred Scott, most of us haven’t heard of Buck v. Bell. In that decision, the Supreme Court ruled that compulsory sterilization laws were constitutional. While the concept behind eugenics laws has been utterly discredited due to the Nazis’ rampage, that decision has not been formally overturned.
As any reality-based person knows, it’s patently insulting for any Christianist to claim the mantle of the civil rights movement. After all, while King fought for equal rights, Staver and his friends are fighting against equal rights–or “special rights,” as they sometimes call it. They claim the legacy of King, when their rhetoric would put them in the same company as the likes of Orval Faubus, Bull Connor, and George Wallace.
Just like the religious right, the segregationist knuckledraggers frequently challenged Supreme Court decisions in favor of integration by arguing that the Supreme Court can’t make law. So by that logic, Brown v. Board of Education, Torcaso v. Watkins, Miranda v. Arizona, and who knows how many other decisions are not law.
Anyone with a fifth-grade education would know this argument is bogus. Considering that Staver is also the dean of Liberty University’s law school, you really have to wonder if this claptrap is being taught there. It’s yet another reason to shudder if you learn that your attorney, or his opponent, went to Liberty.
Frankly, Staver is the last person to claim the moral high ground. As Davis’ attorney, he advised her to refuse to grant marriage license to anyone in Rowan County, gay or straight–thus making Rowan County’s straight couples collateral damage. He portrayed Davis as another Rosa Parks, but advised her to act more like the driver who told Parks to go to the back of the bus.
So Staver thinks we’re “brainwashed”? Frankly, if supporting equal rights for all makes us brainwashed, we ought to wear that as a badge of honor.