Obergefell & the SCOTUS: why it matters here at home

Obergefell vs. Hodges comes to the Supreme Court of the United States today, and anticipation can be felt on all sides of the debate. The LGBTQ+ community awaits fervently the hopeful extension of marriage equality as a civil right and a law of the land in the United States; the religious right in the United States, however, waits with anticipation that the notion of same-sex marriage will be tyrannically applied across the United States (sic). Affixed on the side of the religious right, however, is a dehumanisation of LGBTQ+ people and religious Americans who agree that the legal definition should be extended to include lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender people, and other queer people. Today, most Americans agree that the legal definition of marriage should be extended to include LGBTQ+ people, and that includes many religious people.

Saying that the religious right dehumanises the LGBTQ+ community might seem like a radical statement: but is it? Many on the right ridicule the “gay agenda” yet purport themselves to be loving and caring of LGBTQ+ people and even have the token “gay friend!”

In Mike Huckabee’s recent 2014 book God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy is a chapter on marriage equality, entitled “Same-Sex Marriage and the Law (God’s and Man’s).” He opens this chapter with the tale that almost seems predictable in along the lines of dehumanisation: he begins with a story from his childhood of the worst of the worse, a pedophilic Boy Scoutmaster. How predictable! He narrows a multi-faceted community of peoples of many identities and intersections (as we say) into a single stereotype used to provoke fear and anger in the straight community: the story of a gay pedophile. The staunch super-majority of LGBTQ+ people (1) do not fit this stereotype and (2) endorse consent between people when it comes to sexual intercourse. If there ever was a “gay agenda,” consent would be in it.

Multiple problems arise in Huckabee’s book, but I wish to focus on the concept that an individual’s religious belief should be the single-most motivating factor for the government to not work for marriage equality or to not recognise marriage of LGBTQ+ nature from other states in the United States that perform them. In Huckabee’s words, his argument is based on a “God-centered and not man-centered” view of the law. However, the problem here with Huckabee’s words is that the Republic exists for the people and by the people: and the American people includes a minority known as the LGBTQ+ community.

Huckabee posits that the man-centered view of the world, the one he attributes to liberals and progressives, can be summed up in the belief that it’s “every man for himself” and that each person “acts as his or her own god.” Those of us who stand for marriage equality do not see it in that way. It is not every man for himself: it is that the law should recognise the validity and sanctity of two people joined together in one Union on the basis of love. When the law that Huckabee seeks to protect (that is, marriage between a man and a woman) provides human and earthly benefits to the couple, it no longer becomes solely a concern of heavenly or religious realms: it becomes a matter of equity and justice. The most remarkable human stories come out of the disaster of the 1980s AIDS epidemic and these stories fly in the face of the paranoia focused on LGBTQ+ people. Through several degrees of separation, I have been told of stories of real people — not some sort of nefarious political or social agenda — who were barred entry into hospitals where their loved one sat dying, having been forbidden entry or the right to take care of the person they loved by the hospital staff or by the family.

The story of Jim Obergefell goes to the heart of this story of the 1980s and is our own contemporary reinterpretation of it. Though we no longer have an AIDS epidemic in this macronation, Obergefell was not recognised by the State of Ohio as being married at the time of his husband’s death. Instead, Ohio treated Obergefell and his husband, John Arthur, were treated as legal strangers, despite having been married in Maryland in 2013. Obergefell was not entitled to the privileges and benefits associated with the unions of two heterosexual people — but what appears to trouble Obergefell the most is not the loss of financial reimbursement for the loss of his partner, his companion in the home they shared: it was the loss of human dignity associated with the union that they had enjoyed for twenty and more years when the State of Ohio did not give the privilege of having Arthur’s surviving spouse written on the death certificate. That is tantamount to forced separation by the state on homophobic, discriminatory grounds — and forbids Obergefell from being buried beside his partner at the time of his death. It is more than separation on a piece of paper, a death certificate: it is separation for eternity, a separation of sanctity.

This battle for marriage equality does not just affect lesbians and gays, though it may seem that way with words such as the “gay agenda” or with the invisibility faced by other sub-communities of the universal LGBTQ+ community at the hands of the Human Rights Campaign. Marriage equality affects bisexuals, pansexuals, transgender people, queer people, asexuals… It is the legal protection of two people, who share a home together — the real basis for a family. To argue that to grant these governmental, legal protections for LGBTQ+ people violates the religious convictions of a select few is not a fair argument because it makes another’s opinions dictate the life of a free and separate group of individuals, and it removes any religious or spiritual beliefs from LGBTQ+ people. As a Buddhist, my Tibetan Buddhist sangha is comprised of LGBTQ+ people, endorses marriage equality, and has performed queer marriages; as a cultor of the Roman religion, our religious books and myths contain many queer stories and interpretations — many of which take place between gods and men. To say that marriage equality negates the “God-centered” view does not do a fair service to all people who live in the United States.

Finally, this matters here in Sandus, our micronation, because it is a matter of equity that concerns all of us. Sandus is comprised of a condominium shared between the United States and our little State. But this battle affects the entire United States and the queer community that is likewise found in the State of Sandus. All Sandum citizens at the time of writing this are either American citizens or are residents of the United States of America. It would not be a far-flung statement to say that marriage equality is a universal right in Sandus and that the Sandum People are unanimous in their support and endorsement for marriage equality. On a more justice-oriented plane, however, we believe that LGBTQ+ people should be afforded the same privileged afforded to straight people and that, in sum, there should be equal protection under the law.

This isn’t just an American value. It’s a Sandum value. And Sandus stands for equality under the law and the human dignity of all peoples.


Gaius Sörgel is the Sôgmô of the micronation of Sandus and is the facilitator of Bisexuals at Maryland, a support and discussion group for bisexuals, pansexuals, and queer people at the University of Maryland, College Park.