The U.S. Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage means “Wyoming ought to get on board” with nondiscrimination policies, former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson said Monday.
On Friday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that marriages between same-sex couples will be recognized in all states. Justices ruled 5-4 in the Obergefell v. Hodges case that the equal protection guarantee in the 14th amendment of the Constitution requires states to license same-sex marriages.
WyoFile spoke with Simpson on Monday about his reactions to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
WyoFile: What does this decision mean for Wyoming, and for America?
Al Simpson: It means it is equality under the law. We are all God’s children. We are all equal under American law. It is a thread through our whole … history, including when they tried to say a slave was only three-fifths of a human being. I don’t know why anyone gay or lesbian should be less a human being than I am. It just means gay and lesbian people can be just as happy in their marriage as I am in mine.
What is Wyoming’s role in this social change, to have same-sex marriage recognized in no states a few years ago, and in all states today?
Back to that federal court decision [Guzzo v. Mead in Oct. 2014]; when that decision took place I didn’t see anyone out in the streets protesting to say, “This is horrible.” People who disagreed — disagreed, but there was no legitimate protest organized, and then the Legislature dealt with the discrimination issue, and that’s a business issue. It doesn’t have anything to do with churches.
Corporations don’t want to see anything in the law that deals with gender preference. That will come up again and it will be a business decision. Companies that want to do business in Wyoming won’t stand for that kind of discrimination and Wyoming was certainly right in there with the federal decision, one of the states 37 [that made same-sex marriage legal].
What reaction do you think the GOP will have, or should have, both nationally and in Wyoming?
I guess we’ll find out. If the Republican Party, whatever that is, chooses to continue on social issues, they’ll lose. If they now decide to do what the Republicans and the Tea Party people [all agree] are right with us, it’s called cutting spending, getting a hold on national debt, restoring the social security system, changing healthcare, getting a handle on the tax code. We are all together on those. Anyone who continues to talk about social issues is missing the boat.
Scott Walker said he was going to push a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court decision. Merry Christmas. Thirty-seven states already approved it and to get a constitutional amendment he has to have two-thirds of the vote in the legislatures in three-fourths of the states. I can’t think Custer would have been in a worse position on that one. When 37 states had already approved gay marriage, it puzzles me.
It is the law of the land whether you like it or not, and a lot of things become the law of the land whether you like it or not.
How do you reconcile nondiscrimination and religious freedom?
It’s nobody can force me to practice my religion and I can’t force you. I can’t force you to do anything you don’t want to do.
If it is masquerading religious freedom — and the purity of that I believe in totally — to simply try to enforce discrimination against gays and lesbians, it will be overturned just as it was in Indiana and Arkansas. They caught them at the pass and it was overturned. I think it will be pretty easy to discern.
Now that all marriages will be recognized in all states, does that bring the nondiscrimination issue to the forefront in Wyoming?
I think anything that comes up with discrimination against gays and lesbians will be overturned just as if it were race, pregnancy, nationality — all the [protected classes].
Almost all major corporations in the country have this [nondiscrimination] in their hiring policies. Wyoming ought to get on board for people to come in here with their investment dollars in Wyoming.
When you get into the sanctity of marriage you are talking to the wrong guy. [As a practicing attorney] I did 1,500 divorces in Park County, Wyoming. Don’t pound your chest about the sanctity of marriage. These were heterosexuals. It is hypocrisy to say this will destroy marriage. Marriage got destroyed a long time ago. Fifty percent of people get divorced. You’ve got to get a new line.
“What’s wrong with people being happy?” he said. “It doesn’t matter to me what that is.”
Is there going to be another act on the issue of LGBT rights?
It’s like anything else, there are guys who are never going to be satisfied at the decision on healthcare, Obamacare, on Roe vs. Wade. There are guys out there who will go forever and drop dead in their quest.
Nothing will ever end. It just gets in better perspective. It is a little more clear each time, even though the losers think, “How can I get around this?” They’ll come up with another case and try to get it upstairs [to the Supreme Court], that’s how it works….
I just think it is a wonderful thing that [LGBT] people who want to be united in marriage are now allowed to do so, and hopefully have the same happiness in marriage that I have had in mine, for 61 years. More power to them.
Al Simpson’s advocacy for LGBT equality
Simpson was featured in a Freedom to Marry TV ad in April 2014 saying, “I’m a Republican. The party’s basic core is, government out of your life and the right to be left alone.”
Not everyone in Wyoming agrees with Simpson’s view. The Big Horn Basin Tea Party sparred with Simpson over his views on social issues, among other political topics.
Wyoming lawmakers grappled with bills for nondiscrimination and religious freedom in the 2015 Legislature. Neither bill passed. Simpson served on the honorary board of the Compete Wyoming coalition, a business group that pushed the nondiscrimination bill.