Same-sex couples in Alabama could marry as soon as Monday, now that the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a stay of a federal court ruling overturning the state’s same-sex marriage in two concurrent lawsuits.
That news has gone over rather poorly in some parts of Alabama – so poorly, in fact, that the state’s Chief Justice, Roy Moore, announced late last night that U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade had exceeded her constitutional authority by overturning the same-sex marriage ban, and that the state’s probate judges are still prohibited from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
As reported by Buzzfeed’s Chris Geidner, Moore sent a letter and memorandum to probate judges informing them that Granade’s ruling applied only to Alabama’s Attorney General.
“In my estimation, Judge Granade’s orders in Searcy and Strawser have created a ‘situation adversely affecting the administration of justice within the state’ that requires me‘[t]o take ... action for the orderly administration of justice within the state,’” he wrote. He added that Alabama has “strict separation of powers between the branches of government,” and that as a member of the executive branch, the Attorney General had no authority over members of the judicial branch.“As independent constitutional officers of the judicial branch of government who are directly elected by the people and shielded from executive influence by Sections 42 and 43 of the Alabama Constitution, the judges of probate are neither beholden to the Attorney General for their offices nor subject to his control in the execution of their duties,” he argued.Beneath the legal language lies an absurd assertion, and you don’t need a legal degree to understand why Moore’s reasoning falls short. First-year law students know that states simply don’t have the right to ignore federal laws and court rulings they dislike. (We went through this before, remember? It didn’t work out well.)
As AU’s attorneys put it in a recent letter to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Moore’s legal theories “are relics straight from the Civil War, embraced only by inhabitants of the deranged right-wing fever-swamps in which the Justice has mired himself.”
Here’s the bottom line: The federal appeals court refused to overturn Granade’s ruling. Barring a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court, marriage equality is legal in Alabama from February 9 forward. The system is working exactly as intended.
Yet Moore stubbornly remains in a far-right fantasy land. His motivations for this inevitably ill-fated legal stunt aren’t exactly subtle. In his letter last night, he concluded: “I urge you uphold and support the Alabama Constitution and the Constitution of the United States to the best of your ability, So Help You God!”
That’s typical for the chief justice. Last year, he argued in Hicks v. Alabama that U.S. law “…flows from the divine source: it is the law of God. The law of nature and of nature’s God binds all nations, states, and all government officials – from Great Britain to Germany to Alabama – regardless of positive laws or orders to the contrary.”
Moore, of course, first achieved public infamy when he instigated a years-long legal battle by erecting a Ten Commandments display at a public courthouse. He lost the battle, and eventually his seat on the Alabama Supreme Court, only to be re-elected in a 2012 election. He also founded a far-right legal outfit, the Foundation for Moral Law, which promotes the idea that the U.S. is a Christian nation, and that its laws are based on the Bible.
The chief justice is a busy man: His talents even include poetry. I leave you, dear reader, with a sample: “We’ve voted in governments that are rotting to the core,
Appointing Godless judges who throw reason out the door.
Too soft to put a killer in a well deserved tomb,
But brave enough to kill that child before he leaves the womb.
You think that God’s not angry, that our land’s a moral slum?
How much longer will it be before His judgment comes?
And how can we face our God, from Whom we cannot hide?
What is left for us to do, but stem this evil tide!”Indeed.