The Division in America Is Much Deeper Than You Think

The following is a lightly edited transcript of remarks made by Rakim Brooks during a Newsweek Debate about the Respect For Marriage Act. You can listen to the podcast here:

The reason Congress has to act is because they are concerned that there will be states that will not honor the full faith and credit clause, and that that they will opt out of the Constitution and not recognize marriages that were completed in other states. The division is much deeper than you think because we’re talking about a constitutional fracture with people threatening not to abide the rule of law. Congress is using its power to prescribe the manner in which that full faith and credit will be recognizing the effects of it as the clause says. What I’m most concerned about is that the Supreme Court seems to have pushed us in this direction. We now have a court that has three trump appointees, and Justice Thomas who has signaled to them that he is ready to reconsider recent precedent on the grounds that he doesn’t believe in substantive due process. There are massive divisions in our society. They may not appear as naturally in the polling, but I actually think they exist, both in terms of the divisions between the different branches of government and between the states.

Clarence Thomas
United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas poses for an official portrait at the East Conference Room of the Supreme Court building on Oct. 7, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

One of the primary ways in which the South attempted to resist desegregation orders is on the basis of religion. I happen to be black, and I happen to be gay. And so just as I was not inclined to see the South resist desegregation orders on the basis of religion. I’m not inclined to see a person or partnership walk into a courthouse and be told that the person who served everyone else will not serve them on the basis of their sexual orientation, that someone else has to do it. It’s a bridge too far. When a person is acting in a ministerial role as a government official, regardless of their religious beliefs, what is incumbent upon them? Regardless of their personal beliefs, not everything needs to be grounded in religion, you can have freedom of conscience as we have enshrined in the First Amendment. But what are you required to do by virtue of that job, and should you lose your job if in fact you’re not willing to perform the services? My answer is yes, you’re of course welcome to hold that belief in the private quarters of your home. But no, you’re not allowed to refuse me at a courthouse, nor are you allowed to refuse me at a Woolworth’s counter.

Rakim Brooks is president of the Alliance for Justice Action Campaign.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

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