The Alabama Supreme Court, in particular Chief Justice Roy Moore, continues to fight the legalization of same-gender marriage, and it’s leading some to compare Moore and current Governor Robert Bentley to segregationist Governor George Wallace.
On Tuesday, the Alabama Supreme Court once again ignored orders from the U.S. Supreme Court and halted same-gender marriages in the state.
“As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for ‘marriage’ between only one man and one woman,” the justices wrote. Alabama judges have a duty “not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty.”
The U.S. Supreme Court last month denied a request to stay a federal-court ruling that the state’s ban on same-gender marriage was unconstitutional. The stay would have prevented marriage licenses from being issued while the case played out in Washington, but the nation’s highest court ruled that the state must abide by the lower court’s ruling and immediately allow the marriages.
But Moore has continued to fight the ruling.
He sent a letter to probate judges statewide ordering them to deny marriage licenses to same-gender couples.
“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 a state law banning same-gender marriage, Moore wrote.
He has argued that the state has no obligation to abide by the rulings of any federal district or appeals court, and that only formal rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court can overturn state law.
That apparently does not include the denial of the stay request.
“My duty as Chief Justice and administrative head of the court system is to enlighten those courts under my authority as to what the law is in this matter,” Moore said. “And the law is clearly that federal district courts and appellate courts are only persuasive authority to the courts of this state because the judges of state courts are equally competent to interpret federal law.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a three-part ethics complaint against Moore.
Gay Marriage Is ‘Not a Civil-Rights Issue’
Bentley has been a model of inconsistency throughout the process, allowing his justices to run roughshod on the federal courts.
Early last month, the governor released a statement saying he would not punish any probate judges who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples.
“The issue of same sex marriage will be finally decided by the U.S. Supreme Court later this year. I have great respect for the legal process, and the protections that the law provides for our people. I am disappointed that a single Federal court judge disregarded the vote of the Alabama people to define marriage as between a man and woman.
“I agree with the dissenting opinion from U.S. Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia when they stated, ‘Today’s decision represents yet another example of this Court’s cavalier attitude toward the States. Over the past few months, the Court has repeatedly denied stays of lower court judgments enjoining the enforcement of state laws on questionable constitutional grounds.’
“This issue has created confusion with conflicting direction for Probate Judges in Alabama. Probate Judges have a unique responsibility in our state, and I support them. I will not take any action against Probate Judges, which would only serve to further complicate this issue.
“We will follow the rule of law in Alabama, and allow the issue of same sex marriage to be worked out through the proper legal channels.”
Less than two weeks later—barely 10 days ago—Bentley said his office would begrudgingly accept that legal same-gender marriage was reality in the state, saying he would “never do anything to disobey a federal-court ruling” on the issue.