Same-sex marriage should have been legal in the state of Alabama on Monday. But at the behest of far-right state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, many probate judges have refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses. A few have stopped issuing licenses for straight couples, too, until the legal confusion is resolved.
The result: Equality for some, but not for all. It’s a perversion of the most fundamental principles of our democracy, but Moore and his allies aren’t backing down.
In an interview with Bloomberg Politics, the judge seemed unrepentant for his actions.
Moore, wearing a Christian cross on his lapel, rejected comparisons to George Wallace, the state’s infamous segregationist governor, saying that this “has nothing to with race or the color of one’s skin.”
“We don’t discriminate in Alabama,” he said. “This is about marriage. And we don’t discriminate there, either. All persons have the right to marry a person of the opposite sex according to the Constitution of Alabama’s ‘Sanctity of Marriage Amendment.’”
He reiterated his belief that U.S. District Court Judge Callie V. Granade’s ruling, which struck down the state’s marriage equality ban, violated “federal rules of procedure,” and that probate judges aren’t bound to obey her court.“But I submit to you nothing in the Constitution of the United States admits that the power or authority of the Supreme Court or any federal court to reinvent the definition of marriage,” he said. “That definition belongs to the people.”
When asked if he’d allow same-sex marriages in the state if the Supreme Court so ordered it, he responded, “I do not allow gay marriage anywhere. I will not change my opinion on the definition of marriage.”
Moore added that he’d be willing to go to jail if a federal court found him in contempt of a Supreme Court ruling. “They can’t rule your conscience,” he said. That, he asserted, “is what the First Amendment’s all about.”
Roy Moore, you have a fatally flawed understanding of the First Amendment, and of the entire Constitution. (President Barack Obama, who knows a few things about constitutional law because he used to teach it, agrees.)
You are indeed permitted to believe whatever you like about the definition of marriage. You are not, however, permitted to defy federal courts because their rulings are at odds with your personal religious beliefs. As the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, it is your job to uphold the secular Constitution, and not your interpretation of the Bible.
It doesn’t matter if you like it.
It doesn’t even matter if most people in Alabama like it.
Some citizens are currently being denied their civil rights, because of social policies based on religious dogma, and the courts are ruling one right after another that it is time for this situation to end. We do not permit a civil rights violation simply because a majority wants the violation to continue. That is not democracy, it is theocracy, and it is incompatible with the intentions of the Constitution’s framers. It is the same argument behind opposition to court rulings that struck down the South’s infamous Jim Crow laws. It is time to leave the argument in the past; that is where it belongs. We do not need a 21st Century George Wallace blocking the courthouse doors.
Granade has scheduled a hearing tomorrow that should, we hope, resolve the legal confusion caused by Moore’s order prohibiting probate judges from issuing same-sex marriage licenses. It appears unlikely that if the hearing doesn’t go the way Roy Moore hopes, the chief justice will stand down. If he does not, it is time for a serious conversation about his future on the bench of the state Supreme Court. Again.