Claims of Civil Rights to Aggrandize a Wealthy, Connected, Straight, White Male
As brought to my attention by the Rhode Island Republican Assembly:
In an unprecedented attack on the Rhode Island Constitution and with complete disregard to the citizens of Rhode Island, Attorney General Patrick Lynch has today, taken on the role of Lord and Master of the citizens of this state by proclaiming that “Rhode Island will recognize same sex marriages lawfully performed in Massachusetts as marriages in Rhode Island.”
He has proclaimed this recognition without the citizens of Rhode Island being given the right to vote on the matter as the citizens in other states have. He has also lifted himself above the Legislative and Executive branches of the State government which have passed no laws recognizing these Massachusetts “activist judges allowed unions”.
This is a great miscarriage of justice and law by the individual that is charged with the responsibility of enforcing Rhode Island law and protecting our State Constitution, not Creating Laws and issuing Executive Decisions from the office of the Attorney General.
Details from the Providence Journal’s 7 to 7 blog add a little murk to the water:
Lynch said his office took “great pains” to review state law before determining that legal out-of-state marriages don’t contradict the state’s public policy.
“I’m saying there is no legal reason that a couple validly married in Massachusetts should be denied any basic rights in Rhode Island,” he said. “That would be wrong.”
Lynch’s opinion was issued in response to a recent request from the Board of Governor’s for Higher Education. Three state employees had asked their personnel files to be changed to reflect their same-sex marriage status, according to board spokesman Steve Maurano.
Unless I’ve missed something in Rhode Island law concerning the attorney general, his power does appear to leave room for him to be “forced to intervene” beyond rulings and statutes put forward by the legislative and judicial branches of Rhode Island state government. The AG’s allocated modes of action are to prosecute, to investigate, and to advise. Nowhere are his interpretations deemed legally binding. When faced with civil rights violations, for example, the AG’s recourse is to “bring a civil action for injunctive or other appropriate equitable relief” — that is, bring it to the courts.
Like any lawyer/politician, however, Lynch has left himself (and 7 to 7 reporter Steve Peoples has perpetuated) an ambiguity cum escape clause. The Board of Governor’s appears to have approached Lynch in his capacity as the state government’s “legal adviser.” But unless an adviser is a much different creature in the halls of government, it is not his role to decide that the “Board of Education was threatening to deny people basic rights” and declare, “I wasn’t going to wait.” Rather, one would expect him to give the board his opinion, in confidence, and then to defend it against any lawsuits that might arise. Even beyond any question of whether the action that he did take represents a power grab, one must wonder how effectively he would defend a dissenting public board against a lawsuit concerning what he agrees to be “a basic civil rights issue.”
A further astonishing aspect of Lynch’s declaration is that it comes at a time when the General Assembly has legislation addressing the matter on the table and the judiciary is grappling with a related question. Although same-sex marriage advocates have successfully framed the debate in the legalistic-sounding terms of whether the “marriages were validly entered into,” and despite Lynch’s decidedly nonlegalistic rhetoric, the state can deny the benefits of marriage if, as I’ve argued before, the relationship is simply not marriage according to Rhode Island law.
On such fundamental matters of social construction, the people of Rhode Island have a right to a say. But since when have these false and manipulative “civil rights” advocates cared about disenfranchising anybody with whom they disagree?
I caught a segment on this on the eleven o’clock news and it was clear that Lynch had already backed off the “I had to take action” stuff. Now if the rest of the news media and activist groups (I’m thinking mainly, but not exclusively, pro-SSM) would do the same, perhaps legal processes could flow as intended.