Ray Moore says No

Oh goody, it’s Brown v Board all over again – with reactionary officials defying a federal court in a last ditch effort to deny people civil rights. Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court last night told the state’s probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday. George Wallace lives!

“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 the Alabama Constitution or state law, the chief justice wrote in his order.

The order, coming just hours before the January decisions of United States District Court Judge Callie V. S. Granade were scheduled to take effect, was almost certainly going to thrust this state into legal turmoil. It was not immediately clear how the state’s 68 probate judges, who, like Chief Justice Moore, are popularly elected, would respond to the order.

District Court is higher than a state Supreme Court, as I understand it. State courts aren’t supposed to flout rulings by District Courts. But then this is Roy Moore…

Some judges across the state had already signaled they would do nothing to aid gay couples and, in some instances, any couples. “Marriage licenses and ceremonies are no longer available at the Pike County Probate Office,” the office said.

And Washington County Probate Judge Nick Williams released a “declaration in support of marriage” in which he said he would “only issue marriage licenses and solemnize ceremonies consistent with Alabama law and the U.S. Constitution; namely, between one man and one woman only, so help me God.”

Several judges elsewhere announced variations of those plans after a push by Chief Justice Moore, who rose to national prominence in the early 2000s when he defied a federal judge’s order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a Montgomery building and was subsequently ousted from his post leading the high court. He staged a political comeback, became chief justice again in 2013, and has in recent weeks said that Alabama’s probate judges are not bound by a federal trial court’s decisions. His argument has deep resonance in a place where a governor, George Wallace, stood in a doorway of the University of Alabama in 1963 in an unsuccessful bid to block its federally ordered integration.

Right, it has deep resonance. Deep, bad resonance.

Although much has changed from Wallace’s era, Chief Justice Moore had used a series of strongly worded letters and memorandums to insist that Judge Granade, an appointee of President George W. Bush who joined the federal bench in 2002, had instigated a grave breach of law.

The result had been a legal and cultural debate rife with overtones of history, closely held religious beliefs and a chronically bubbling mistrust of the federal government that was expected to play out at Alabama’s courthouses Monday.

Yay! Let’s have this fight all over again. Let’s draw a line in the sand denying other people civil rights so that we can hog all the civil rights to our own sweet Christian selves. Let’s pride ourselves on being the wrong side of history and the wrong side of all human rights issues. Let’s make a big point of oppressing minority groups for no reason other than to puff up ourselves and our imagined god.

The chief justice’s misgivings speak to widespread concerns here about federal overreach and same-sex marriage in Alabama, where about 81 percent of voters in 2006 supported a constitutional amendment banning gay nuptials. Few here doubt the force of his belief that Judge Granade’s orders hold only “persuasive authority,” and not binding power, on Alabama judges.

“My guess is that is actually the way Roy Moore sincerely understands the federal-state relationship,” said Joseph Smith, a judicial politics expert at the University of Alabama. “He’s also an elected politician, and he knows who his constituency is.”

All theocratic bigots are they?

For many here, it is unsurprising that Chief Justice Moore emerged as a strident voice in a social debate after the dispute about the Ten Commandments display, known as “Roy’s Rock,” forced him from power.

“Unfortunately, sometimes it makes for very good politics here to be seen as opposing federal intervention, whether it’s from a court or a federal agency,” said David G. Kennedy, who represents two women involved in a case that prompted Judge Granade’s decision. “The situation here is that this is not federal intervention. It’s not federal intervention at all. What it is, is a federal court declaring what same-sex couples’ rights are under the federal Constitution.”

Federal constitution. Alabama is not part of that federation. It…it…it abstains.



  1. Crimson Clupeidae says

    And he’ll likely get removed from office (was he disbarred?)…and re-elected once again by the fine upstanding citizens of Alabama.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    Federal constitution. Alabama is not part of that federation. It…it…it abstains.

    Well you know, the Constitution is like the Bible. It’s an a la carte menu where you pick and choose the bits you like and ignore the rest. And then you declare un-American anyone whose dinner tray doesn’t match yours.

  3. screechymonkey says

    The plaintiffs in the Alabama marriage case have brought a motion in federal court to have the Alabama probate judge held in contempt for refusing to open the office and issue marriage licenses.

    The fun is just beginning.

  4. shadow says

    Can the plaintiffs abstain from the duties of Alabama citizenship, since they aren’t granted the privileges? Like paying taxes?

    Can the feds abstain from providing tax dollars to Alabama? Especially from states where SSM is allowed? IIRC, red states seem to get more federal dollars than blue states.

  5. Alvin Firpo says

    “District Court is higher than a state Supreme Court, as I understand it.” That’s your problem: You don’t understand it. The plaintiffs in the case, instead of appealing to the Alabama Supreme Court, decided instead to sue Alabama Attorney General Strange. This doesn’t make any sense, and presumably they did so in order to obtain better PR and a more sympathetic judge. Since the AG was the only one enjoined in the suit, Judge Granade’s jurisdiction was limited to just him. She ordered AG Strange to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but the AG doesn’t do that; the probate judges do. Judge Granade knew this, and admitted as much in a response to their request that Judge Davis issue a marriage license to the plaintiffs. Judge Moore was correct to clear up the confusion this created by ordering the probate judges to continue as before.

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