Within days, the U.S. Supreme Court will make a ruling that could spread same sex marriage nationwide (even if they permit states to prohibit it by also making them recognize these from other states). If so, the case of former Shreveport fire chief Kelvin Cochran stands as a warning to the excess that may result.
After Cochran came up through the ranks in Shreveport, his career trajectory, including a stint as the United States Fire Administrator, took him to Atlanta as head of its fire department. During his (second) tenure there he wrote and self-published a devotional book concerning men and Christian faith, where in part of it he explored his belief that marriage only was to be between a single man and single woman, calling homosexual behavior “perversion.”
For that, he was fired despite an internal investigation revealing he never had discriminated illegally against any employee on the basis of that belief or on any other basis. In other words, he was terminated for his thinking, not for any of his actions with others, that he did not have the right personal beliefs for him to hold the job. The city justified its action that its senior administrators could not express beliefs contrary to opinions nebulously contained in a government-defined perception of the city’s views without approval and that Cochran had not received this before publishing – despite the fact the mayor had a copy of it for many months prior to the suspension handed down during the investigation and Cochran said he received verbal approval – and then when ordered to stay quiet about it during the investigation did not. He has since sued the city.
Cochran’s experience serves as a specific example of the larger general environment surrounding the issue. In recent years, supporters of same-sex marriage increasingly have taken on an intolerant tone, stipulating that not to accept this idea by definition constituted bigotry that the Constitution prohibited – despite the fact that homosexuality is defined by behavior, not immutably (there is no “gay gene”) and the Constitution protects behavior only in instances of that from religious and political beliefs. Further, the state has not an unfair but an entirely logical rationale to treating different kinds of unions differently: its laws encourage unions that have the possibility of and can procreate in order to accomplish the important state purpose of perpetuation so there is no rational reason that it must extend the same benefits to those unions that by definition cannot do this (although it may do so if its people wish).
What happened to Cochran is the inevitable conclusion of allowing that intolerance to fester, and the Court’s ruling could add fuel to that fire. While a number of legal experts think, given the Court’s recent jurisprudence on the matter, that it will rule to reaffirm the general police power of states as derived in the Constitution that would allow them to define marriage, it will expand the full faith and credit clause to force states to accept marriages of any kind from anywhere. Less coherently, it could create a fundamental right to same sex marriage out of thin air.
Certainly in the latter case it could provide judicial cover to actions that go beyond mere neutrality in viewpoints over behavioral questions taken against people and states, enabling punishing of those who think differently as in Cochran’s episode. Even if the more likely scenario plays out, because of the inroads made into coercing state policy-making – essentially, this decision would make same sex marriage recognized everywhere – other areas such as adoption record policy would be brought into conflict, and it still would give aid and comfort to the notion that thoughtcrimes committed through the belief that marriage legitimately exists only between a single man and single woman can cost people jobs or bring on forms of government punishment.
The growing totalitarian nature of what some have termed the “gay mafia” that seeks to silence any dissent from its opinion about what behaviors people must accept and endorse by law, asking not just for tolerance but also for fealty and unswerving loyalty to its belief system, should worry anybody concerned with preserving the fabric of civil society, individual freedom, and human dignity. Should this trend continue, whether abetted by this decision, instances like Cochran’s will become regrettably all too common.