Oh, the liberals took umbrage (and the conservatives cheered) when Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin — whom I’ve met in person, and she seemed like a nice enough lady — made it clear that her state wouldn’t process marriage benefits for same-sex couples in the Oklahoma National Guard. The explanation is fairly straightforward: Oklahoma’s constitution doesn’t allow it, and clearly defines marriage as between a man and a woman, because of a popular 2004 amendment.
Since federal rules now insist that all couples be treated the same, Fallin’s solution also seems straightforward: don’t process the benefits for anyone, which is what the state ordered its local facilities to do. Now any member of the Oklahoma National Guard must go to one of the federally-owned facilities in the state.
Satirical comedy show host Stephen Colbert raised an interesting point last week (watch the video, after a 30-second ad), based on this breakdown of Oklahoma’s action: “Rather than provide any services for gay people, the government should refuse to provide them for everyone.” In other words, if being gay is so distasteful to non-gays’ access to government services, perhaps other government services should be discontinued as well. Colbert insinuated that public schools and fire departments — also tax-payer supported services that currently cater to gays and non-gays alike — should be shut down.
But he’s just a comedian. The Daily Beast got in on the action (as did other internet news/commentary sites): “…it raises a genuine question. How far are anti-gay-rights warriors like Fallin willing to go down this rabbit hole?” And: “When Oklahoma’s discriminatory practices conflict with federal law, what other services will the state be willing to deny to straight people merely so they can deny them to gays?”
I tend to also believe that this is a genuine question, though I’d attempt to remove a little rhetoric (“anti-gay-rights warriors”) from the question.
Seventy-six percent of Oklahoma voters were in favor of the 2004 amendment that’s in question here. Do Oklahomans sincerely believe that a gay couple accessing a government service is morally wrong? Because I was under the impression that it was the being gay that they considered morally wrong. Surely they can see the difference between being gay and applying for a driver’s license name-change (also not allowed in Oklahoma for gay couples, according to Oklahomans For Equality).
Despite Colbert’s attempt at humor, were Oklahomans listening with nodding heads when he suggested in jest that schools and fire departments close down so they too won’t have to serve gay people?
If, someday in the future, the federal government is forced to nitpickingly clarify that any government service must be applied without discrimination, will Oklahoma close its roads to keep the gayness at bay? State parks? Police stations?
I suppose my real question is: What difference does it make? Is the federal or state service somehow less worthwhile if gays can have it too?