What God Has Joined Together

I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

In a Nigerian courtroom last month, a judge ordered his bailiff to lash a man with a stout well-oiled whip, lash him screaming. His crime: seven years ago, he had sex with another man. So unjust was this punishment, so enraged were citizens at the judge, they threatened to burn his courtroom.

Enraged, because the judge didn’t kill him.

Nigerian Islamic law gives authority to its judges to stone such people to death.

We don’t have that excuse in the United States. Yet it’s a big deal (what the news media like to call a “major milestone”) that today our executive branch is announcing it will extend the same rights to same-sex marriages that one-man/one-woman marriages have enjoyed since, well, since forever.

The federal government will, at least for now, recognize gay couples (but only if they’re legally married) “to the greatest extent possible under the law.” Sometimes that extent won’t be very much.

The new directive will of course apply only where the federal government has jurisdiction. Bankruptcies, for example, are filed in federal district courts, so gay couples now will have every right to lose their shirts together.

The federal government does not have jurisdiction in state courts. Astonishingly, at least to me, thirty-four states continue to define marriage as a one man/one woman thing, and woe to any same-sex couple that wishes to have any say about what happens when their partner falls mortally ill; or whether, should they run afoul of state law, they can visit them in prison, or even whether they can be forced to testify in criminal court to help put them there in the first place; or, if victims of crime under state law, they could claim any right to compensation.

That’s in more than two-thirds of the “United” States. Barely ten years ago, in four of those states you could still go to jail for being homosexual.

The Supreme Court called bullshit on that kind of legislation in 2003. Yet, as of…let’s see, what year was that…oh yeah…2014…as of today, 13 states still have laws like that. Unconstitutional, as defined by the Supreme Court, but still on the books. Just like the laws of the 34 states that ban same-sex marriage.

I know couples, loving unions of two men, or two women, afraid to say “I love you” to one another, in case they are overheard. They kiss in the shadows, they hide from the moon — and from the sheriff.

We don’t hate homosexuals as much as Islamic law does. But most of our own laws still speak with undeniable clarity: we do hate them.

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