Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore last week tried, once again, to block marriage equality in that state.
There is no case pending before the state high court dealing directly with same-sex marriage, but Moore decided to issue an order anyway. He instructed probate judges in the state to cease issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Moore’s novel theory is that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges applies only to a handful of states in the U.S. 6th court circuit, where the case originated.
Any first-year law student could tell you why this is nonsense, and several legal commentators have pointed out that Moore is fighting a losing battle.
Ronald Krotoszynski, a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law, told the Associated Press that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling clearly applies nationwide.
“In light of this reality, ordering the state’s probate judges to refuse to issue marriage licenses to all couples who seek them constitutes an exercise in futility – at best, it sows chaos and confusion; at worst, it forces couples to bring federal court litigation in order to exercise a clearly-established federal constitutional right,” Krotoszynski said.
The good news is that most probate judges in the state are ignoring Moore. The bad news is that eight Alabama counties months ago stopped issuing marriage licenses entirely rather than let same-sex couples have them.
The counties in question -- Autauga, Bibb, Cleburne, Choctaw, Clarke, Geneva, Pike and Washington -- are mostly in rural areas and don't have large populations. So far, no one has challenged the probate judges for refusing to issue licenses, but AU believes the issue should be raised in court. If you live in one of these counties and would like to get a marriage license but can’t, Americans United may be able to help you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. (It does not matter if you are part of a same-sex or opposite-sex couple; we can help either way.)
In the meantime, take heart. Moore won’t win this one, and it appears that some people in Alabama have had enough of him. Several dozen state residents rallied against Moore in Mobile on Saturday. It wasn’t a huge number, but it’s a start. (Among the participants was Amanda Scott, a member of Americans United’s Youth Advisory Council.)
It was also heartening to see the statewide news website AL.com run a scathing editorial attacking Moore for his latest actions. There is no need for me to reinvent the wheel; the site summed up the situation better than I can. Go here and read the editorial. You won’t regret it.
Finally, there has been some speculation that this is all a political stunt. Moore will be 71 when his term as chief justice expires in 2018, and due to age limits he won’t be able to run again. But there are no age limits for governor, and at least one newspaper editor in the state thinks Moore has his eye on the governor’s mansion.
No matter what he’s up to, Moore’s latest antics are just further evidence that he’s willing to sacrifice the rights of Alabama’s citizens to stroke his own ego and further his political ambitions. Such a venal individual should have no place on any court in America.
In 2003, Moore was removed from office following an investigation by a state Judicial Inquiry Commission and vote by a Court of Judiciary Overview. These bodies acted after Moore defied a federal court and refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state Judicial Building in Montgomery. (Unfortunately, Alabama voters returned Moore to the bench in 2012.)
After his removal from the court, Moore spent several years roaming the country speaking to Religious Right groups, writing putrid poetry and filing extreme legal briefs in other cases. Perhaps it's time for him to explore getting him off the court again so he can go back to those activities.