(The two issues of government-sanctioned racism and government-sanctioned homophobia are related, and the nexus is both States Rights as an ideology and the key individuals who ascribe to States Rights as a legal or governing philosophy. If you don't believe there is a connection between homophobic politics and racist politics in the Deep South, first read Tom Freeland's last blog before he passed away about Alabama's Supreme Court Chief Justice trying to channel anti-Civil Rights reactionaries by issuing orders that defy the federal government on the issue of marriage equality. Then, just for fun, go back and read one of my first blog posts about how some of the very same chancery judges of modern-day Mississippi act as moral police on gay rights but cut their teeth by actively spying on Civil Rights activists or by sitting at the knee of those who did. By the way, an update is in order; all three chancery judges profiled in my 2013 piece were reelected the following year.)
Predictions For Supreme Court's Gay Marriage Fallout in Mississippi
By the end of this week, the Supreme Court is expected to find in favor of marriage equality -- or as some may describe it in a less sentimental way, homosexual parity with heterosexuals on the legal issue of marriage.
Semantics aside, the Supreme Court will likely find 6-3 in favor of a Constitutional right to marry between two consenting adults. I say 6-3, rather than 5-4 (with Kennedy almost certainly joining the liberal wing of the court), because I leave room for Chief Justice Roberts to concur with the majority but perhaps without a full-fledged recognition of a constitutional right to marriage equality from his very nuanced constitutional perspective. But what can we expect from conservative Justices Scalia, Alito, and Thomas on gay rights? Fuggedaboutit.
Make no mistake. Any decision in favor of marriage equality (whether 6-3 or 5-4) is a good thing for human rights and the moral leadership of the United States in the 21st Century.
On the other hand, this decision will challenge the system here in Mississippi and across the Deep South in ways that will lead to potentially disastrous and certainly embarrassing consequences.
First of all, it's an election year here in Mississippi, and the gay marriage decision may derail every campaign from Attorney General down to Circuit Clerks from their current tracks. And with the AG and Circuit Clerks having to weigh in on marriage equality, you can expect Governor Philbo to strike again as the grandstander in chief for all things regressive.
The 2015 elections may become a race to scoop up the low hanging fruit of hellfire conservative voters who are already mad at what they see as a radical Obama agenda and the godlessness of the Supreme Court.
Call this meta-narrative for Mississippi's 2015 campaigns an election ran under the "banners of tradition" (or the "banners of hatred" for you semantics fans). The twin banners under which the hardliners will be campaigning are of course both the preservation of the current state flag and the preservation of the current definition of hetero-exclusive marriage. These twin banners of tradition (or hate) have the election-year potential of absorbing all other worthy campaign issues, including the current hot topics of education, corruption, and Medicaid expansion.
After the high Court decision, I foresee three things:
1) Local Circuit Clerks will split. Some will discharge their duties faithfully by upholding the Constitution of the United States as per their oath. Others, out of election-year pandering or perhaps devout religious objection, will take it upon themselves to deny homosexual couples a marriage license. They will resort to all manner of dirty tricks to do this. Need a license? Oh, sorry, I'm going out to lunch. Be back never! This will create a crisis, as the media in Mississippi is bored as hell and really like stringing stories to the national media to kick their portfolios up a notch. I don't blame them. I like doing stuff like that too. But still, it will give every ambitious hick in every circuit clerk's office in the state way more publicity than they deserve.
2) De Facto party leaders of import, Democratic Attorney General Hood and Republican Governor Phil Bryant, will have to do something or at least say something in reaction to the Supreme Court decision, whether because of the Circuit Clerk crisis or because of pure election year politics. I have a couple thoughts on Hood and Bryant, although others may also try to jump into the scrum over gay marriage in an election year.
Hood will issue an advisory opinion to some circuit clerk either telling them to do their damn job, regardless of how yucky it is, or perhaps…. knowing Hood's populism and his conservative credentials, the Democrat may tell the clerks that denying licenses is the right thing to do, because, well, states rights, election year, blah blah blah. Mike Hurst, Jim Hood's Republican opponent, just may push him into a corner on this issue. But the issue is more delicate than either probably realizes. If you go too far on a red meat issue like this, you will alienate some of the more enlightened voters that helped defeat that crazy personhood amendment in 2011.
Like AG Hood, Phil Bryant has a choice. He can either grandstand and use this opportunity to score massive political points as standard-bearer in this state for the twin banners of tradition (pro-flag and anti-fag, if we're being as un-PC as your Uncle Jimbo's Facebook posts), or he can act in ways that would make Dixiecratic Governors of yesteryear proud.
Bryant just may be crazy enough to call a special session to enact all manner of interposition legislation. He may do this solely to please certain legislative candidates who want to embarrass Democrats or steer the campaign into this rabbit hole as opposed to running on their records. There are all sorts of ancillary issues to marriage like individual access to state benefits based upon marriage, and many homophobic politicians will derive great joy from denying such benefits even if marriage has already been decided for them.
Or Bryant may take a middle road approach (or what passes for middle road in the Deep South) and call a couple statewide government holidays to appease those who sympathize with the Circuit Clerks who don't want to do their jobs registering gay couples to marry. This will allow Bryant to speechify and show he doesn't approve of womenfolk kissing each other, while it will not do as much potential damage to the state's national image or his legacy as a special gay-bashing session would.
3) 2015 Legislative candidates may lose their way if the narrative shifts like I think it will when Circuit Clerks, the AG candidates, and the Governor all weigh in on gay marriage. Like I mentioned, there is a high likelihood that the old bugbears of the Fox News-manufactured culture war may distract from the real issues.
The real issues include whether children should receive an adequate education, whether more people should have access to medical care, and whether our government gives too much money to crony corporations and too much power to crooked lobbyists.
To me, legislative candidates losing their focus may be the saddest potential election year unintended consequence from the marriage equality decision to be handed down this month. The legislative candidates out there on the trail are having a real debate right now about important things. If they get sidetracked by campaigning as "pro-flag and anti-fag," it will be a huge disservice to Mississippians from all walks of life.