Last year, Chris Sevier tried to sue state officials in Mississippi and several other states to force them to recognize his marriage to a computer, apparently in a deeply misguided attempt to criticize marriage equality. Now, he’s helped to co-write a bill, introduced in both South Carolina and Wyoming state legislatures, to label same-sex unions “parody marriages.” The bill, known as the Marriage and Constitution Restoration Act, defines marriage as a relationship solely between a man and a woman. All other marriages—unions of same-sex couples—are defined as parodies and, the bill reads, part of the “religion of Secular Humanism”[sic].
Contradictorily, however, the bill states that so-called parody marriages are “nonsecular for the purposes of the Establishment Clause” while “marriages between a man and a woman are secular in nature for the purposes of the Establishment Clause.” The Establishment Clause of the US Constitution is the section of the First Amendment that reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
That’s where the bill gets confusing in addition to being outright discriminatory. The bill’s sponsors manage to claim that same-sex marriages arise out of secular humanism while at the same time being nonsecular because the bill’s sponsors define secular humanism as a religion. Therefore, in the reasoning of the bill, same-sex marriage is actually a government endorsement of religion and therefore prohibited by the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. Marriage between a man and a woman, on the other hand, “arose out of the nature of things…is natural, neutral and noncontroversial” and therefore not government promotion of religion.
And the purpose isn’t just to outlaw marriage equality. The bill goes further in legalizing discrimination against LGBTQ people. The Wyoming bill includes this language: “The state of Wyoming shall no longer enforce, recognize, or respect any policies that treat self-asserted sexual orientation as a suspect class because such policies constitute nonsecular state action.” The South Carolina bill contains the same language. Essentially, that would outlaw anti-discrimination protections for LBGTQ people in all instances. Not surprisingly, the bill has been described as “pure, outright prejudice” by the president of SC Pride, Jeff March.
Somehow, this parody of a law garnered six sponsors in South Carolina and two in Wyoming, all Republicans. In Wyoming, though, the absurdity of the bill, introduced on Valentine’s Day no less, was recognized early. It was thankfully killed in committee, so it won’t be moving forward.
Sevier has been clear about his motives for promoting these bills as well as last year’s computer-marriage lawsuit. In a media interview he stated his reasoning:
Because gay marriage is not secular. It’s controversial. It’s questionably real. It’s questionably moral. And just like polygamy, and zoophilia, and machinism [that’s where the computer comes in, I guess?], and other forms of perspective marriage are also not secular. All forms of parody marriage are equally part of the religion of secular humanism.
Sevier’s partner in crime, South Carolina state Representative Steven Long, one of the bill’s sponsors, echoes this bigotry:
Marriage between one man and one woman—natural and non-controversial—arrives out of the nature of things. It is not something that is exclusively religious. There are several religions that promote and support that, but this bill doesn’t have any kind of religious motive to it. The state of South Carolina can’t have policies that put religion over non-religion, and that includes the religions of secular humanism, moral relativism and atheism, which the courts have determined to be considered religions under the establishment clause.
One thing is clear: Sevier and his friends in the legislature just don’t understand the definition of the word secular—and they certainly don’t understand humanism.