Alabama Courts Continue Same-Gender Marriage Fight

Ignoring orders from the U.S. Supreme Court, the Alabama Supreme Court continues to block marriage for same-gender couples. But Alabama's current governor doesn't think it's a civil-rights issue.

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.

GLAAD Calls for LGBT Characters in 20 percent of Movies by 2021

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James Ivory wears a shirt depicting actor Timothee Chalamet as he holds his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for "Call Me My Your Name" during the 90th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Calif. / REUTERS

(Reuters) — Romance "Call Me By Your Name" may have won a screenplay Oscar, and Disney's family-friendly "Beauty and the Beast" had a gay character, but movies from Hollywood's major studios last year had the lowest percentage of lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual characters since 2012, according to a report released on Tuesday.

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Lynching Memorial and Museum Opening Highlights America's Racist Past, Parallels Today's Killings of African Americans

"We're dealing with police violence. We deal with these huge disparities in our criminal justice system. You know, if everything was wonderful you could ask the question, 'Why would you talk about the difficult past?' But everything is not wonderful."

@nullafacente_/INSTAGRAM

Hundreds of people lined up in the rain to experience a long overdue piece of American history and honor the lives lost to lynching at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum in Montgomery Alabama on Thursday.

The Equal Justice Initiative, sponsor of this project, has documented more than 4,000 "racial terror" lynchings in the United States between 1877 and 1950.

The first memorial honoring the victims includes sculptures and art depicting the terror Blacks faced; 800 six-foot steel, engraved monuments to symbolize the victims; writings and words of Toni Morrison and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and a final artwork by Hank Willis Thomas capturing the modern-day racial bias and violence embedded in the criminal justice system and law enforcement.

Among memorial visitors were civil right activist Rev. Jesse Jackson and film director Ava Duvernay. According to the Chicago Tribune, Jackson said it would help dispel the American silence on lynchings, highlighting that whites wouldn't talk about it because of shame and Blacks wouldn't talk about it because of fear. The "60 Minutes Overtime" on the memorial just three weeks earlier was reported by Oprah Winfrey, who stated during her viewing of the slavery sculpture, "This is searingly powerful." Duvernay, quoted by the Chicago Tribune, said: "This place has scratched a scab."

The Montgomery Downtown business association's President, Clay McInnis, who is white, offered his thoughts to NPR in reference to his own family connection to the history that included a grandfather who supported segregation and a friend who dismantled it. "How do you reconcile that on the third generation?" he asked. "You have conversations about it."

A place to start: The Montgomery Advertiser, the local newspaper, apologized for its racist history of coverage between the 1870s and 1950s by publishing the names of over 300 lynching victims on Thursday, the same day as the memorial opening. "Our Shame: the sins of our past laid bare for all to see. We were wrong," the paper wrote.

The innumerable killings of unarmed Black men and the robbing of Black families of fathers, mothers, and children today not only strongly resemble the history of lynchings, but also bring up the discomfort and visceral reactions that many have not reckoned with.

Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and the man who spearheaded this project, told NPR: "There's a lot of conflict. There's a lot of tension. We're dealing with police violence. We deal with these huge disparities in our criminal justice system. You know, if everything was wonderful you could ask the question, 'Why would you talk about the difficult past?' But everything is not wonderful."

WFSA, a local news station, interviewed a white man who had gone to see the Legacy Museum downtown, also part of the EJI project, located at the place of a former slave warehouse. He talked about how he was overwhelmed by the experience and that "Slavery is alive in a new way today."

Reactions on social media were reflective of the memorial's power and the work that is continuing toward progress.

During a launch event, the Peace and Justice Summit, Marian Wright Edelman, activist and founder of the Children's Defense Fund, urged the audience to continue their activism beyond the day's events on issues like ending child poverty and gun violence, according to the Chicago Tribune: "Don't come here and celebrate the museum ... when we're letting things happen on an even greater scale."

Perhaps the reason to honor and witness the horrific experiences of our ancestors is to seal in our minds the unacceptable killings of Blacks today, and the work we ALL have to do now to stop repeating the past.

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REUTERS

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