Gay marriage is coming to Georgia. Even Southern Baptists are dealing with the reality. So too are probate judges across the state who don't want Georgia to follow Alabama as a national embarrassment when marriage equality becomes law.
The Council of Probate Judges of Georgia has quietly put out the word that whatever the nation’s high court says this summer – when justices are expected to decide the issue — will be the law in Georgia courthouses.
Given the Supreme Court’s recent refusal to delay gay marriage in Alabama, even religious conservatives are presuming that the legal battle has been lost.
“The primary advice we have been giving our judges is, you’ve sworn to uphold and defend the constitution of the United States and the state of Georgia,” said Chase Daughtrey (photo), probate judge for Cook County and president of the council. “If the Supreme Court says it is unconstitutional, and requires us to issue the licenses, we have to adhere to the law and what they view as constitutional.”
Roy Moore, Alabama's chief justice, ordered judges in the state to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. That plunged the state into legal chaos after the U.S. Supreme Court essentially made Alabama the 37th state to legalize gay marriage on Feb. 9.
A federal lawsuit challenging Georgia's gay marriage ban is on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court likely issues a ruing in other marriage cases this summer. In the meantime, the state's probate judges will hash out how to handle gay marriages during a gathering in Decatur next week.
Via the AJC:
Even so, the state’s probate judges will gather in Decatur next week, during which they’ll discuss the nitty-gritty decisions that come with a major cultural shift. Such as the rewriting of marriage license applications.
As probate judges sort it out, Southern Baptists realize a ruling from the Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage across the country is "likely." So they offered advice to judges who issue the licenses, like those in Alabama and Georgia: Do your job or quit.
From Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, via the Baptist Press:
“In a Christian ethic, there is a time for civil disobedience in cases of unjust laws. That’s why, for instance, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. went to jail. In the case of judges and state Supreme Court justices, though, civil disobedience, even when necessary, cannot happen in their roles as agents of the state. Religious freedom and conscience objections must be balanced with a state's obligation to discharge the law. We shouldn't have officials breaking the law, but civil servants don't surrender their conscience simply by serving in government. While these details are being worked out, in the absence of any conscience protections, a government employee faced with a decision of violating his conscience or upholding the law, would need to resign and protest against it as a citizen if he could not discharge the duties of his office required by law in good conscience.
“Given the high bar required for civil disobedience, the way to address same-sex marriage in this circumstance is not by defying the rule of law, but by making our case before the legitimate authorities. If we lose, our responsibility is to advocate as citizens for our views, even if that project is (as in the case of the pro-life movement) a long-term project, while we work for our constitutional guarantees of freedom of conscience and religious liberty.”
But not everyone is pleased. MLK family embarrassment – Alveda King, MLK's niece – has compared gay marriage to genocide. And with gay marriage coming to Georgia, she's renewed her war on gay Atlanta but this time by talking less about it causing genocide and more about it prompting an exodus.
She sees the wave of gay marriage advancing, and her personal circle includes gay and transgendered people. But she believes the tide will turn again. “I firmly believe that God’s great love and mercy never fails,” she said. “I believe you will see an exodus from what we call the gay and homosexual lifestyle.”
Who needs enemies when you've got Alevda King as a friend?