Oh Jebus (sorry, Dr. Craig!), Alabama continues to show itself as a retrograde state with a Bronze Age morality. According to the New York Times, Alabama’s Chief Justice (i.e., of the state supreme court) has ordered that state employees ignore the ruling of a Federal District Court that state licenses for gay marriage would be issued starting this morning.
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, a Republican (of course), is famous for having refused to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from his courthouse lawn. He was removed from office for that act of defiance, but was then re-elected as Chief Justice. From the Times:
“Effective immediately, no probate judge of the State of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama probate judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent” with the Alabama Constitution or state law, the chief justice wrote in his order.
The order, coming just hours before the January decisions of United States District Court Judge Callie V. S. Granade were scheduled to take effect, was almost certainly going to thrust this state into legal turmoil. It was not immediately clear how the state’s 68 probate judges, who, like Chief Justice Moore, are popularly elected, would respond to the order.
. . . by Sunday night, the chief justice, faced with the prospect of many judges allowing same-sex marriages to move forward, acted, in part, “to ensure the orderly administration of justice within the State of Alabama.”
Reached by telephone late Sunday night, Ben Cooper, chairman of the board of the gay rights group Equality Alabama, said that same-sex couples expected to be issued marriage licenses Monday morning.
“We are continuing to move forward tomorrow,” Mr. Cooper said. “If we walk in and licenses are refused, if they do not comply with the federal order, then these probate judges could be personally liable,” said Mr. Cooper, who added that he expected legal actions to be filed against the individual probate judges if they do not issue the licenses.
Already several probate officers, who issue the licenses, have said that they would not issue them to gay couples regardless, or to any couples. This, of course, comes out of the bedrock Christianity that permeates the state.
Where we are with this is right back to the days of George Wallace, the Alabama governor who refused federal orders to integrate the University of Alabama, even standing in the school doors to prevent black students from entering. Except this time it’s not for blacks, but for gays.
And, like Wallace’s act of bigotry, this one won’t stand. Federal court decisions take precedence over those of state courts, and everyone knows that. Unless the Supreme Court of the U.S. overrules Granade (and I see that as unlikely), Alabama will have to bite the bullet and allow gay couples to get married. Judge Moore knows this, too, so why his dumb order? I suspect it’s because, like the Ten Commandments affair, it’s a way to build popularity with his constituents, for in Alabama all Supreme Court justices, including the Chief Justice, are elected. And Alabama voters, by and large, aren’t exactly down with Enlightenment values.
Within a decade, gay marriage will be legal everywhere in my country, and the U.S. Supreme Court—with the exception, perhaps, of Scalia and Thomas—will have affirmed that. Roy Moore and his supporters are bucking the tide of both morality and history, and in the end they’ll go down beside George Wallace as the death rattle of southern bigotry.