Peter Sprigg

There is something masturbatory about explaining, in advance, why and how the United States Supreme Court is going to get the marriage decision wrong. It’s also pointless. Most observers expect the Court to rule in favor of marriage equality. The anti-gay hate group, Family Research Council, will not be pleased. In particular their homosexuality expert, Rev. Peter Sprigg, will not be pleased.

Rev. Sprigg is one of the reasons that Family Research Council is classified as an anti-gay hate group. Sprigg doesn’t have any training or background in sociology or any of the sciences for that matter. Sprigg is a Baptist minister and that’s good enough for FRC. A literal Southern Baptist interpretation of the Bible is good enough for Sprigg.

Early Tuesday evening, Rev. Sprigg asked us to take a journey back to 1971 with part one of a legal analysis. Forty-four years ago there wasn’t a single openly gay elected official in the nation. No openly gay judges. No openly gay congressional staffers (at least none that I know of). Five years would pass before Harvey Milk won election. It would be another 16 years before Barney Frank came out. It would take another three years for even Massachusetts to repeal its anti-sodomy law. LGBT citizens lived in a very different country.

This takes us to Baker v. Nelson, the nation’s first marriage equality case. The Supreme Court of Minnesota ruled that a gay couple did not have the right to marry. Sprigg gives the opinion a considerable edit and some of it is not re-typed correctly. Unsurprisingly, Sprigg starts midway through the ruling with this bit of Christian justice:

The institution of marriage as a union <sic> man and woman, uniquely involving
the procreation and rearing of children within a family, is as old as
the book of Genesis.

“Justice” Sprigg further informs us:

The appeal of this case was dismissed “for want of a substantial federal
question” by the U.S. Supreme Court — establishing a binding precedent
which over two dozen federal judges have chosen to ignore in the last
two years.

Rev. Sprigg should know that Baker v. Nelson ceased being mandatory precedent when the Court made other decisions that indicated changes in doctrine. There have been several.

One of these was the 1996 ruling in Romer v. Evans. The Court ruled that anti-discrimination ordinances did not constitute “special rights.” Perhaps the most important of these, however, was Lawrence v. Texas in 2003. Not only did the Court rule that anti-sodomy laws were unconstitutional, it overturned its own 1986 ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick (affirming Georgia’s anti-sodomy law). When the Supreme Court concedes that it got it wrong that serves as a strong suggestion that there have been doctrinal changes.

Two years ago, in United States v. Windsor, the Court ruled that section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional. Surely that is a ruling that Sprigg has some vague memory of.

This brings us to part two of Sprigg’s opus-minimum which he provided on Wednesday morning. Sprigg instructs us on the merits of the 2006 ruling by the New York Court of Appeals in Hernandez v. Robles. As I said, this is a masturbatory (and pointless) exercise. Other cases were making their way through the New York courts (such as Martinez v. County of Monroe) when, in 2011, marriage equality was legislated into state law.

Sprigg does serve a useful purpose. He consumes a salary from FRC which is money that the organization could spend more “productively” to advance discrimination against LGBT citizens. Just in passing it would be nice if FRC paid some attention to real binding precedent in Roe v. Wade.

By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.