South Carolina Republicans want ‘parody marriages’ to circumvent marriage equality

If you thought you'd heard all the arguments against marriage equality, you were wrong.

CREDIT: RobHainer via Getty Images
CREDIT: RobHainer via Getty Images

A group of South Carolina state lawmakers have proposed a new bill to try to circumvent marriage equality and allow discrimination against gay, lesbian, and bi people. It would dub same-sex couples’ marriages “parody marriages,” and its reasoning is incomprehensibly bizarre.

According to H. 4949, a “parody marriage” is “any form of marriage that does not involve one man and one woman.” It proposes that “the State of South Carolina shall no longer respect, endorse, or recognize any form of parody marriage policy because parody marriage policies are nonsecular.”

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It likewise seeks to justify discrimination by proposing that “the State of South Carolina shall no longer enforce, recognize, or respect any policy that treats sexual orientation as a suspect class because all such statutes lack a secular purpose.”

Only marriages between a man and a woman would continue to be recognized “because such marriage policies are secular, accomplishing nonreligious objectives.”

Why are “parody marriages” nonsecular and different-sex marriages secular? According to the bill, “all forms of parody marriage and all self-asserted sex-based identity narratives and sexual orientations that fail to check out the human design are part of the religion of Secular Humanism.” In other words, everyone who isn’t heterosexual is supposedly part of Secular Humanism.

Because the United States Supreme Court respects Secular Humanism as a religion, the bill argues that recognizing same-sex couples’ marriages is thus an endorsement of that religion in violation of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause.

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This would come as a massive surprise to the many queer members of other faith groups, such as queer Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs, to name a few.

The bill easily runs afoul of the Supreme Court’s decision in Obegerfell v. Hodges, which invalidated any state law “to the extent they exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples.” Declaring same-sex couples’ marriages “parody marriage” and refusing to recognize them is hardly “the same terms and conditions.”

It’s unclear if the bill has any chance of advancing, but it currently has six sponsors. All of them are Republican and Republicans control the South Carolina House by almost a 2-1 margin.

Rep. Steven Long (R) claimed he didn’t think the word “parody” was hurtful “because what we are saying is that marriage is between a man and a woman.”