6 South Carolina Legislators Want Same-Sex Marriages to Be Called 'Parody Marriages'

Shaundra Young Scott is the Executive Director of the ACLU of South Carolina

Sometimes legislators do something so discriminatory and full of hate that it’s hard to believe someone isn’t trying to pull your leg. But six Republican legislators in South Carolina last week introduced legislation that would define any marriage not between a man and a woman as a “parody marriage.” And they’re deadly serious.

On Feb. 15, Reps. Steven Long, Bill Chumley, Mike Burns, John McCravy, Josiah Magnuson, and Rick Martin introduced the “Marriage and Constitution Restoration Act” in the South Carolina House of Representatives. The bill uses the terms “marriage” and “parody marriage” to redefine what unions the state would recognize. “Parody marriage,” the legislation says, “means any form of marriage that does not involve one man and one woman.”

The bill is unconstitutional on its face, and the legal analysis it employs is absurd. It relies partly and mistakenly on the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.” Under the Establishment Clause, a secular law means one that is nonreligious while a nonsecular one would be religious in nature. Here’s where things get absurd. According to these representatives, same-sex marriage is religious because all LGBTQ individuals are members of the “religion of Secular Humanism.” Therefore, same-sex marriage is nonsecular and thus a “parody marriage” that the state of South Carolina would no longer recognize if the bill passed.

This isn’t a joke.

The legislation also neglects to define the term parody. According to Merriam Webster, a parody is “an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect." The use of the term by the lawmakers seems to suggest that same-sex marriages are for comic effect. But the only “comic effect” here is that the authors actually introduced this bill, with this language, in 2018.

The legislators, however, go further. Same-sex marriage, they believe, was the opening “Secular Humanists” needed “to infiltrate and indoctrinate minors in public schools to their religious world view which is questionably moral, plausible, obscene, and is not secular.” If you’re going to introduce such a hateful piece of legislation, you might as well go all the way and throw in some paranoid conspiracy theories, too.

Even if this absurd piece of legislation were to pass the South Carolina legislature, the courts would strike it down as unconstitutional. Marriage equality is settled law, and was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2015. Some lawmakers in South Carolina can’t handle that, and by engaging in this legislative stunt, they are making a parody of themselves.

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