Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Orthodox Jewish official refuses to issue business license

Shlomo
Rabinowitz
In Holata, FL (pop 9,329) Shlomo Rabinowitz is responsible for issuing business licenses. The central Florida city only has 29 employees. Citing deeply held religious beliefs, Mr. Rabinowitz has refused to issue a business license for Tasty Pig, a would-be pork store which recently acquired the space previously held by a defunct bridal shop.

None of that is true. While Holata is the Seminole word for alligator, there is no city in Florida by that name and Shlomo Rabinowitz is a fictional character. The image is a Brooklyn rabbi. The circumstances are obviously preposterous. No one is forcing poor Shlomo to consume pork. He just has to issue a business license which is based primarily on a certificate of occupancy.

However, this illustrates what same-sex couples are going through in Alabama to obtain marriage licenses. For example, if you happen to be in Pike County, the local probate judge Wes Allen stopped issuing marriage licenses in the wake of the Obergefell ruling by the Supreme Court.

You will recall that Roy Moore (it is so hard not to give him a middle name reflecting my disdain) told subordinate judges that they were not bound by the federal law. Moore asserted that they had a ministerial duty to uphold traditional marriage. Moore's actions led to his removal from the bench.

According to WVPE, a PBS station:
For Allen, the decision came down to his religious beliefs.

"I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and firmly believe that Biblical world view," he says. "And I couldn't put my signature on a marriage license that I knew not to be marriage."
Mr. Allen is no less absurd than our fictional Mr. Rabinowitz. For some reason his irrationality is not obviously absurd in some quarters. What Allen is attempting to do is to impose his ignorance and Christian beliefs on others. Gays, of course, are subject to Allen's yellow highlighter. Mr. Allen might not approve of interracial or inter-religious marriages either but he wouldn't dare intervene. Gay people, however, are still fair game in Alabama.

A dozen other probate judges (who aren't really judges) have the same policy. If you live in Birmingham or Montgomery, no problem. Once you get out to rural Alabama people encounter these sanctimonious Christian supremacists.

Alabama has a solution to this dilemma. They want to take the state out of the marriage business. A measure to do just that sailed through the state senate. Instead of obtaining a license the newly betrothed would file a marriage contract at the probate office. Aside from the fact that this diminishes marriages, what happens if the clerk in the probate office refuses to file the marriage contract because of his or her religious beliefs?

None of that would be necessary if people would simply do their jobs. The way that this developed, in my view, was to use what they offensively called conscientious objection to refuse service to gay people prior to United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges. The intent was to purposely  manufacture self-proclaimed victims of marriage equality in order to derail the movement.

Apart from Roy Moore, after Obergefell people did not appreciate the fact that this was an artifice and the obstruction to the constitutional rights of gay people remained. Nitwits like Kim Davis presupposed that they had a religious obligation and a religious right to refuse service.

The underlying motivation is probably to take advantage of an opportunity to express their disapproval of gay people. Marriage is just pretext to their proclamations of opprobrium. The fact that we, as a society, even entertained these notions as rational enabled further displays of Christian dissatisfaction and Christian supremacy.

I exchanged some email with Eugene Volokh and we were both shocked that the Supreme Court decided to hear Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado. Even when Scalia was alive, the Court declined certiorari in similar cases. What happened, in my opinion, is that we elevated the irrational to rational; the absurd to reasonable.

I know that I am in the minority but I still have some guarded optimism that the Supreme Court will do the right thing with a ruling this summer. Justice Kennedy has been consistent in his regard for the interests of gay citizens.

Refusing service because of religious beliefs is unreasonable and irrational. If and when we force these people to enter into same-sex marriages I might change my point of view.

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