Even though a federal court has struck down Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban and ordered weddings to proceed on Monday, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is defying the order, setting the stage for a standoff between Alabama and the United States government.
Just hours before same-sex weddings were to begin in the state, conservative Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court issued an order forbidding probate judges from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and performing wedding ceremonies.
In a clear violation of the Constitution and federal law, Roy Moore played the state’s rights card in his administrative order. Moore claims the federal court ruling issued by District Court Judge Callie V. S. Granade violates the state constitution and is therefore invalid. He also claimed that the ruling doesn’t apply to probate judges.
IT IS ORDERED AND DIRECTED THAT:
To ensure the orderly administration of justice within the State of Alabama, to alleviate a situation adversely affecting the administration of justice within the State, and to harmonize the administration of justice between the Alabama judicial branch and the federal courts in Alabama:
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…
Moore also threatened judges who ignore his order.
Should any Probate Judge of this state fail to follow the Constitution and statutes of Alabama as stated, it would be the responsibility of the Chief Executive Officer of the State of Alabama, Governor Robert Bentley, in whom the Constitution vests “the supreme executive power of this state,” to ensure the execution of the law. “The Governor shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Art. V, § 120, Ala. Const. 1901. “‘If the governor’s ‘supreme executive power’ means anything, it means that when the governor makes a determination that the laws are not being faithfully executed, he can act using the legal means that are at his disposal.'”
But not only did Judge Granade rule the state ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional because it violated the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment, NPR reports that the George W. Bush-appointed judge “ruled the state marriage ban was unconstitutional and in a clarification order said that probate judges have a legal duty under the U.S. Constitution to issue the licenses.”
This move by Moore is an act of desperation to keep bigotry and discrimination alive in the state of Alabama. The fact is, federal courts have the power to strike down state laws. And when they do so, states must adhere to the rulings unless the ruling is stayed or the U.S. Supreme Court rules differently. Neither action has taken place. In fact, the nation’s high court refused to halt same-sex marriages in Alabama. So Moore is also defying the U.S. Supreme Court by issuing his order. In addition, the U.S. Constitution trumps any state constitution, meaning states are bound by the decisions made by federal courts.
For his actions, Moore is being compared to former Alabama governor George Wallace, who infamously refused to obey desegregation orders handed down from the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education. Wallace literally blocked a doorway into the University of Alabama to prevent African-American students from enrolling. It took the U.S. Deputy Attorney General and federal marshals, plus President Kennedy’s threat to send in the U.S. Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, to force Wallace to step aside. Now, Roy Moore is trying to block same-sex couples from entering courthouse doorways.
If same-sex couples continue to be denied their constitutional rights because of Moore, perhaps President Obama should actually consider sending in the troops to remind Moore and Governor Robert Bentley how much power the federal government has to enforce the rulings of federal courts.
Featured Image: courtesy of Raw Story.