The "scare quotes" are back.
Once again we face a familiar journalistic question: Is it possible to do news coverage of religious liberty debates linked to gay-rights issues in a way that accurately represents views on both sides and even -- imagine this -- quotes informed, qualified experts on both sides?
Also, flashing back to my Kentucky post from the other day, is the goal of these legal debates to promote the rights of gay couples who seek marriage licenses (and other services) or to punish traditional Christians, Jews, Muslims and others who believe that it would violate their consciences to be involved in same-sex union events?
With that in mind, let's walk carefully through the top of this recent USA Today network story about recent events in Mississippi.
JACKSON, Miss. -- U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves issued ... a permanent injunction barring Mississippi from denying same-sex marriage licenses, meaning no circuit clerk or staff member clerk can deny a gay couple a marriage license even if the state's "religious freedom" bill is in effect.
OK, so right now the state of Mississippi is preventing gay couples from obtaining marriage licenses. Did I read that correctly?
But the second half of the sentence addresses something completely different -- which is a bill to protect the First Amendment rights of individual clerks and staff members. Note the statement that "NO circuit clerk" can deny a license.