Zealots more threatening than gays

Published 12:25 am Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I would like to respond to the Letter to the Editor by the Hon. Ashley McKathan.

McKathan refers to the federal government as “our federal overlords.” He describes federal courts as making decisions by “fiat,” and that there is not much left in this “democracy” for the voters to control. These statements are apparently meant to be inflammatory code words, and they are just plain wrong about our federalist system.

The Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution provides that the federal Constitution, and federal laws generally, take precedence over state laws and even state constitutions. It has been this way since the Constitution was drafted in 1787 to replace the Articles of Confederation that provided for a weak and unworkable federal union of the states. Since 1803 when the Supreme Court decided Marbury v. Madison, the branch of our government that ultimately enforces the Constitution and interprets its meaning is the federal judiciary.

Constitutional rights, especially those enumerated in the Bill of Rights, are anti-majoritarian in nature. They protect individuals from actions by the majority when those actions infringe on rights considered fundamental to an individual’s right to life, liberty and property, or right to equal protection under the law.

State laws banning same-sex marriage treat homosexual Americans differently than heterosexual Americans and they deny homosexuals the right to marriage, one of the rights considered a “liberty” interest protected by the Constitution. These bans can withstand equal protection and substantive due process scrutiny only if there is a valid state purpose that justifies this discrimination. A valid state purpose is not met by reference to the Bible or other religious text, but a legitimate governmental interest such as public health, safety, and welfare.

States attempting to justify same sex marriage bans raised several arguments, all of which were found lacking by a majority of federal courts that have considered this issue. The justification used most often was that the bans promoted procreation, which was a legitimate interest of the state. However, this justification failed because marriage between heterosexual couples who could not procreate are allowed. Clearly, the basis for the same-sex marriage bans is an animus against homosexuals, nothing more.

McKathan’s letter quotes Old Testament scripture and states his belief that the Bible (or the parts he likes to select) is the Word of God. That is a belief system that came about in this country during the Great Awakening of evangelical Protestantism in the 19th Century and it is still promoted by Southern Baptist and other fundamentalist churches. Other Christians not only disagree with this religious belief system, but disagree as to whether homosexuality is a sin. Even in Alabama, a Presbyterian synod recently voted 75-39 in favor of approving gay marriages. http://www.al.com/living/index.ssf/2015/02/presbyterian_group_in_alabama.html

McKathan’s view of fire and brimstone, end of the world prophecy, absolute truth, and ancient writings being the Word of God is not only cringe worthy, it makes him qualified to be a judge in the Spanish Inquisition rather than in modern day America. Religious zealots who see the world in black and white terms and who believe they are on a mission from God (or from Allah) constitute our gravest threat today, not gay people who want the government to honor, protect, and stabilize their loving relationships.

Byron B. Mathews, Jr.