Gov. Gary Herbert and the Utah Attorney General’s Office have shown ignorant determination as they have lost battle after battle in their attempt to ban same-sex marriage in our state. At untold expense and immense intolerance to unconventional wedlock, our fearless leaders have kept blundering on, ignoring budgetary costs and deepening the rift of hurt whose foundation is based on social exclusion and religious prejudice.
The state’s knee-jerk reaction to the 10th Circuit Court’s recent ruling that Utah’s gay marriage ban was unconstitutional was predictable and disgusting. Before the ink dried on the 10th Circuit’s vote, Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes went crying to the U.S. Supreme Court, fishing for a decision that will suit them. The issue is far from settled, largely because our land’s highest court is in summer recess, and because the justices may decide to throw the whole thing out. Another possibility is that other states that object to gay marriage will also seek a ruling from the Supreme Court, and the court in turn could combine those appeals and create a finding that speaks to all of the complaints.
This is what happened in the history-making Brown vs. Board of Education case, the ruling that ended segregation in public schools. Because Utah is the first state to seek a finding from the columned marble edifice in Washington, D.C., Utah’s latest appeal, Kitchen vs. Herbert, could become a famous and familiar case in law annals and history text books. If our governor loses this civil war, his status and our state’s reputation could be more infamous than famous. These questions of marriage rights are now on center stage, just as women’s suffrage and civil rights movements were in decades past.
This issue of same-sex marriage is something that shouldn’t be decided on religious arguments or social tenets, although our state’s leaders would like for it to be. This isn’t something that wins or loses on a popularity vote. The answer will not lie in whether or not we as individuals and groups are comfortable with the concept, or whether we think it’s OK for people to be gay and to enjoy the privileges of marriage. These lurches that have broadened human rights have occurred time and again throughout history. Like it or not, we can’t define societal standing through eyes that don’t see social evolution and that don’t respect personal rights, even though most of us have been taught to treat others as we would wish to be treated.
The fictional cartoon character Archie Andrews has been featured in the pages of some of the most popular comic books for the past 75 years. Always one to imbue the Golden Rule through his escapades over the decades, he has stayed a young but maturing symbol of good, clean values. Americans for decades have enjoyed reading about him and his friends Jughead Jones and Reggie Mantle as they’ve enjoyed life in their idyllic town of Riverdale, USA. Recent books in the series “Life with Archie,” have addressed changing social issues. Some readers squirmed a bit when the character, Kevin Keller, came onto the scene. The fictional Keller is an openly gay married man who spent time in the military and went on to become a senator. In this week’s installment of the famous comic strip, Archie dies, taking a bullet for his best friend Keller. How’s that for the evolution of social thought through the pages of one of America’s oldest and traditional forms of entertainment?
But what’s happening here in Utah isn’t fiction. Our attorney general’s office has been riddled with scandal amid charges of graft and corruption. This week, two former Utah attorneys general who had held office for the past 13 years (one for a year and one for a dozen years), were arrested on charges of taking bribes and evidence tampering. These alleged crimes occurred right under our governor’s nose. And that’s how the business of law has been conducted in our state.
I have little faith that justice, fairness, or law-abiding thought is occurring under the roof of our capitol, even with a new attorney general who was hastily shoved into the job a few months ago when his predecessor had to step down.
These are messy, distasteful themes. Time will sort them out, but at what cost to our state’s budget, and at what cost to our society?