Phil Berger, Republican president pro tem of the state Senate and an attorney by trade, knows the law and the constitution and presumably understands that rulings in high courts stand, period.
When states have attempted to defend laws or amendments banning same-sex unions, federal appeals courts have struck them down. The U.S. Supreme Court has in fact bolstered the rights of same-sex couples in its own refusal to hear appeals of those lower court rulings that bans on same-sex unions are unconstitutional. These recent rulings have in effect ended the legal debate.
So why would Berger – who along with House Speaker Thom Tillis and other Republican leaders in the General Assembly orchestrated the successful campaign for a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage – keep up a losing fight?
But it appears that’s exactly what he’s aiming to do. The senator said this week he would attempt to find a way to allow magistrates and registers of deeds to refuse to help gay couples who want to marry. Magistrates conduct ceremonies, and registers of deeds are charged with issuing marriage licenses.
This is an utterly preposterous idea that would surely be rejected by courts on the same constitutional grounds that have been cited in overturning laws banning same-sex marriage. So why is Berger wasting his time and possibly taxpayer money?
The man who is in effect the chief lawmaker in the state knows this effort would be a tilt at a windmill. So that leaves only one conclusion: He’s pandering to his party’s right-wing base by continuing to keep the issue of a ban on gay marriage alive when it’s clear the courts have declared it deceased.
So now he and others in the state legislature are going to spend time trying to craft legislation that will somehow get around the United States Constitution?
Fellas, unless you’re planning to make secession from the Union part of that law, you need to give it up. And in case anyone’s talking secession, think about how all that worked out back in 1865.
The law is the law is the law, and North Carolina’s Republican politicians don’t get to decide which laws they’ll obey and which ones they’ll ignore. Some states’ leaders might like that idea, but the U.S. Constitution and some fellows named Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, et. al., saw more than 200 years ago that the United States would remain united only with a strong government with clear principles of governance.
Republicans such as Berger may believe the gay marriage ban remains a “good issue” for them to use in campaigns, but they’re showing, frankly, that they’re falling out of touch with the coming generations of voters. Younger people are not nearly as preoccupied with the gay marriage issue as are the politicians a generation or two ahead of them.
And now the courts have spoken clearly. The debate is over. Berger and other conservative ideologues need to let this issue go and move on to something else. And they will find a good issue to use to fire up their ideological allies. They always do.