Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Greg Sargent looks at the real story of widespread compliance with the Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage


The great Mike Luckovich drew this glorious cartoon back when legalized same-sex marriage came to Massachusetts. As marriage equality gradually (but, in the grand scheme of things, remarkably rapidly) became the law of the land, homophobes surely continue to wish desperately that same-sex couples would "act a little scarier."

"Given that the ruling happened only a couple of months ago, things are going exceedingly smoothly. This shows that clerks are following the law, whether or not they support the freedom to marry, and irrespective of their religious beliefs."
-- Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom
to Marry, to washingtonpost.com’s Greg Sargent

by Ken

Today we have another demonstration of why I love Greg Sargent, whose Plum Line has been functioning happily for ages now on washingtonpost.com. Look all around today and, understandably, you’ll see coverage of a story that Greg synopsized thusly in a post this afternoon:
Kim Davis, the elected clerk in Kentucky’s Rowan County, refused this morning to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, just hours after the Supreme Court had turned down her request to be excused from issuing them on religious grounds. Asked on whose authority she was turning the couples away, she replied: "Under God’s authority."

The Kentucky standoff is a dramatic story whose resolution is very much up in the air, and it suggests that in some pockets, at least, resistance to the Supreme Court’s declaration of a Constitutional right to marry may continue.
However, the head on Greg’s post is "A Kentucky clerk is turning away gay couples. But she’s a real rarity." And mostly it’s this last part that his post is about. "If anything," he writes, "the more important story here is how little of this sort of resistance we’re seeing, which suggests that the continuing cultural shift on gay rights is only continuing -- and is swamping whatever backlash has greeted the ruling."

Now that, friends, is a story, and I wonder how many people are focusing on it. This is, as I said, an excellent demonstration of why I love Greg Sargent.

For his story, Greg turned to the organization Freedom to Marry, which has been in the thick of the movement to legalize same-sex marriage, and not surprisingly is keeping a watchful eye on developments. Freedom to Marry, it turns out, "has been closely tracking implementation of the gay marriage ruling in counties across the country," and, Greg says, "provided me with a rundown of the state of play," based on "direct calls to the clerks themselves, as well as on reports from organizers on the ground":
In Alabama, there are 67 counties. 54 counties are issuing licenses to everyone.

In Kentucky, there are 120 counties. 118 counties are issuing to everyone.

In Tennessee, there are 95 counties. All are issuing licenses.

In Mississippi, there 82 counties. All are issuing licenses.

There are 64 parishes in Louisiana. All are issuing licenses.

In Georgia, there are 159 counties. All are issuing licenses.

In Texas, there are 254 counties. All are issuing licenses.
Now that’s a story!

Now it’s time for facts and some context for them. Greg is a great lover of facts, and he's terrific at context.
Before the Supreme Court ruling, there were 14 states in which gay and lesbian people could not get married. (Thirteen of those had laws against it, while Alabama wasn’t complying with a lower court ruling making gay marriage legal.) Of these 14 states, seven -- the ones concentrated in the south -- are listed above. In the remaining states -- North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Michigan and Ohio -- Freedom to Marry says any and all problems have been resolved.

And so in the seven southern states where the backlash might have been expected to be fiercest, only one -- Alabama -- still has multiple counties that are holding out. One other -- Kentucky -- has only two remaining counties holding out. One of those counties in Kentucky is the one drawing all the attention today. In the other one, no gay couples have tried to get licenses, Freedom to Marry tells me. All the rest are issuing licenses, the group says.
Finally, Greg reports some crucial points of his conversation with Freedom to Marry's national campaign director, Marc Solomon, beginning with the quote I've put atop this post. (I'll give you a second to take another look at it.)

"It’s true that Alabama remains a trouble spot," Greg writes.
But Solomon notes that the counties still holding out are "not the major population centers," which "just shows how silly the whole thing is." He adds: "this is a very small temporary blip that will take care of itself."

Meanwhile, some polls have shown solid majority approval of the Supreme Court ruling, while other polls suggest support for marriage equality is holding steady in the wake of the decision. And conspicuously few Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates are mounting any kind of serious call for continued resistance.

Says Solomon: "I’m expecting that support will hold and even increase as people see what this means -- that this really is about committed couples who are getting married."
Now that's a story well covered. And just another day at the office for Greg Sargent.


for Greg's Plum Line colleague Paul Waldman, whose ability to provide clear-headed explanations of complex political subjects I've drawn on repeatedly in this space.

And while we're on the subject(s), when it comes both to what we might call the Digbyan ability to discern the real story lying behind -- or above or below -- the popularly bruited one and to the ability to make complex subjects intelligible to nonspecialist readers, notably in technical areas like climate change, there aren't many practitioners who can match our Gaius Publius, which I can say because it was my opinion long before he started writing with us here at DWT. (What I didn't know before was how much fun he would be to have as a colleague!)

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