Friday, October 16, 2009
To answer Michael's question about the Louisiana justice of the peace who refuses to marry interracial couples: No, I do not believe that he should be legally empowered to exercise his conscience in this way, regardless of how many justices of the peace stand ready to pick up the slack. He is a public official, not a private actor. By "public," I do not mean a market actor who sells goods or services to members of the public, I mean a representative of the state whose job is to perform state functions. (A marketplace provider who is licensed by the state is also not "public" in this sense.) I would reach the same conclusion about a justice of the peace in Massachusetts who objects to same-sex marriage. If the state changes the legal definition of marriage, and if my job as a public official is to provide legal services, including the solemnization of marriage, then I must either perform same-sex marriages when requested or find another line of work.