“… the mystery of lawlessness is already at work …” (2 Thessalonians 2:7).
My parochial suburban newspaper’s front page yesterday featured two happy women holding up a marriage license above the headline “We feel equal for once,” a story pitched with the same small-town, feel-good vibes as tomorrow’s “Rotary Club honors oldest residence.”
What should make this nearly run-of-the-mill tale of lesbian wedlock more than of average interest is that Pennsylvania still has a law banning same-sex marriage. Nevertheless, the renegade initiative of our humble Montgomery County Register of Wills office in defiance of the state law is bound to elicit a yawn, because yawns are what you get in modern America when people of high or low status in society break laws.
On July 12, a Pastor Bill Devlin was arrested in Harrisburg, our state capital, as he prayed by an elevator for Attorney General Kathleen Kane, whom he had hoped to chat with about her refusal to defend Pennsylvania’s current traditional marriage law against a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union seeking to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Kane said she could not in good conscience defend a law that she did not personally approve of—which is the same sentiment that prompted Montgomery County Register of Wills Bruce Hanes to go against the laws of our state and invite gay couples to come and marry.
Gov. Tom Corbett’s criticism of Hanes’ move, buried in a less prominent article, seems small and squeaky next to praise of the “courageous decision” of the Montgomery County clerk, and the newspaper write-up refers four times to “standing on the right side of history.” Several state representatives were quick to jump on that historical bandwagon and clamber off the fading zeitgeist of the marriage tradition of centuries.
But one man’s vigilante is another man’s pioneer. A pioneering spirit is the distinct impression gleaned from the Christian Science Monitor’s announcement, “Same-sex marriage: Ohio judge opens new frontier for gay activists,” featuring a touching video chronicling how two gay men married in Maryland came to acquire marital rights in Ohio, a state that does not recognize that kind of marriage.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, President Obama was telling students at Knox College in Illinois he was prepared to make laws with or without Congress’ OK, if he had to, for the good of the people: “Whatever executive authority I have to help the middle class, I’ll use it.” (You may want to watch for that.) As free with the use of executive orders as 1950s comic Lenny Bruce was with obscenities, Obama snubbed three federal appellate courts that ruled he exceeded his authority in first calling a congressional recess and then using that illegitimate recess to appoint three new National Labor Relations Board members.
All of which is to say that yesterday’s warm-hearted story in the Montgomery County Intelligencer about the five happy couples married in Norristown this week is bound to produce a smile and a sigh and nothing more. And this is because the notion of breaking laws that one doesn’t like—what the Bible calls “the mystery of lawlessness”—is a cancer well advanced and metastasizing in a hundred organs of society. It makes as much of a ripple nowadays as a Rotary Club ribbon cutting ceremony.