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Religious Tolerance logo

Recognition of same-sex marriage (SSM) & LGBT equality

Part 28: Alabama: Reactions to the Alabama
Supreme Court
's order of 2015-MAR-03 that
ordered probate judges stop issuing marriage
licenses to same-sex couples:

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In this web site, the acronym "SSM" refers to same-sex marriage. Also, "LGBT"
refers to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender/Transsexual community.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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LGBT symbol Webmaster's opinion (Bias alert)

One problem with the near unanimous ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court is that the U.S. Supreme Court has already made its wishes known about marriage equality in Alabama.

A District Court ruled that the Alabama Constitution and statutes that forbid marriage by same-sex couples are unconstitutional, that they are not enforceable, and that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in the state. That court issued a temporary stay so that this ruling became effective on FEB-09. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed this ruling by refusing to extend the stay. The U.S. Supreme Court also confirmed the District Court ruling by refusing to extend the temporary stay. As a result, with the blessing of the high court, same-sex couples were able to start obtaining marriage licenses on FEB-09.

In brief:

  • On FEB-09, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages were to start in Alabama on that day.

  • On MAR-03, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages were to end in Alabama immediately.

One might ask which court has the higher ranking. Which ruling should be followed by the Probate Justices?

I feel that we should all take pity on the Probate Justices who are being squeezed in the middle of a high intensity conflict:

  • They have been ordered by the federal Courts to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

  • They have been ordered by the Alabama Supreme Court to stop issuing such licenses.

  • Before they took office they swore an oath to uphold both the Alabama State Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. Yet, these documents are clearly in conflict over same-sex marriage.

  • They have been voted into office by the public who are overwhelmingly opposed to equal rights for gays and lesbians. Thus if a Probate Judge follows the orders of the federal courts then they will probably be voted out of office at the next election by a large margin of voters.

  • Probably the vast majority of Probate Judges are Christians and thus may feel obligated to follow the instructions of Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) in Matthew 7:12 of the Bible. It is quoted here from the King Jame's Version, where he commanded his followers:

    "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."

    This passage is commonly called the "Golden Rule." If a Probate Judge approached another judge seeking a marriage license for himself and his partner of the opposite-sex, she or he would certainly expect to receive a license. Thus the Golden Rule commits those Probate Judges who are Christians to supply licenses to all same-sex couples who approach them for a license.

  • If, by chance, a Probate Judge is a member of a religion other than Christianity, then they would probably also be bound by the Golden Rule because all of the major religions of the world contain a similar instruction.

This is a conflict situation that no public servant should be exposed to.

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Some reactions to the order of the Alabama Supreme Court to prohibit same-sex marriage:

  • Jesse Berney, writing for the Blue Nation Review, commenting on the situation in Alabama, said:

    "The Supreme Court of a state has decided the federal government has no authority over that state’s laws. That may not be a formal declaration of secession, but it comes awfully close." 12

  • Joe Godfrey is the executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program. This is one of the two conservative Christian non-profit groups that petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court to stop Alabama probate judges from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He indicated that he was "very excited" about the court ruling, Referring only to families led by opposite-sex couples, he said:

    "We are concerned about the family and the danger that same-sex marriage will have. It will be a devastating blow to the family, which is already struggling." 13

  • Shannon Minter is the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), a pro-equality group. She said:

    "It is deeply unfortunate that even as nationwide marriage equality is on the horizon, the Alabama Supreme Court is determined to be on the wrong side of history."13

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  • Kent Faulk. writing for the Alabama Media Group at AL.com said:

    "The Alabama Supreme Court this week became the first state high court in the nation to challenge a federal court order allowing same-sex marriage, legal experts say.

    "For some, the move by Alabama justices means a step back for a state trying to distance itself from a historical image of intolerance while also recruiting new industry." 14

  • Stratton Pollitzer, the deputy director and co-founder of Equality Florida, another pro-equality group, said:

    "It certainly seems to be the most extreme example of a state court refusing to follow the orders of a federal court regarding marriage equality. It looks pretty ridiculous to the rest of the country." 14

  • Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court referred to the superiority of states' rights over orders from federal courts, saying:

    "Not only are we the first state to do that, our motto is 'we dare defend our rights.' I can't explain why more than 20 other states have bowed down to unlawful federal authority but Alabama is not one of them. A federal judge has no authority to overturn a state constitutional amendment in the face of a state court's opinion on the same matter." 14

    He said that state courts are not bound by decisions of either federal District Courts, or U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal. He noted that in about 20 states, including Alabama, a federal District Court had overturned same-sex marriage bans, and the had states complied with the rulings. But he said that state courts are free to ignore the rulings of both levels of federal court. He said:

    "While their rulings may be persuasive authority, they are not controlling." 14

    He believes that even the U.S. Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over family and marriage topics. He said:

    "Those policies are domestic and left to the states." 14

  • Mat Staver is an attorney at Liberty Counsel -- a conservative Christian legal defense group. They are representing the Alabama Policy Council and Alabama Citizens Action Program who petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court to issue its recent ruling. He believes that federal District Judge Granade's ruling has very limited scope. It only covers the individuals directly involved in the case: the plaintiff couples and the one Probate Judge: Don Davis in Mobile County. It does not require other probate judges elsewhere in Alabama to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Also, it does not require Judge Davis to issue licenses to same-sex couples other than the plaintiffs in that case. He said:

    "I agree the Alabama Supreme Court has been more aggressive and they're the only one who has gotten it right. We've done a lot of research on the laws and they're dead-on in their decision." 14

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Daily KOS Group, "You Won't Believe Roy Moore's Answer As To Why He's Not Like George Wallace," 2015-FEB-24, at: http://www.dailykos.com/
  2. "Supremacy Clause," Wikipedia, as on 2015-FEB-22, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  3. "Gov. Robert Bentley won't take action against probate judges issuing same-sex marriage licenses," Alabama Media Group, at: 2015-FEB-06, at: http://www.al.com/
  4. Leada Gore, "Gov. Bentley's pastor wants him to fight feds on same-sex marriage, even if they 'drag us to jail'," Alabama Media Group, at: 2015-FEB-26, at: http://www.al.com/
  5. David Tulis, "Do we need more leadership of Gov. Bentley, Supt. Daniels type? Hardly," Nooganomics, 2015-FEB-25, at: http://nooganomics.com/
  6. "FRC Praises Alabama Supreme Court Order Respecting the Freedom of Voters to Uphold Marriage," Family Research Council," 2015-MAR-04, at: http://www.frc.org/
  7. David Demirbilek, "Southern Poverty Law Center repeats 'hate group' claim about Family Research Council," Daily Caller, 2012-SEP-13, at: http://dailycaller.com/
  8. "Polling Memorandum," WPA Opinion Research, 2015-FEB-20, at: http://downloads.frc.org/
  9. Jim Hill, "H.B. 56," Alabama Legislature, at: http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/
  10. Hubert Tate, "Activists Fast-Tracking Anti-LGBT Bill in Alabama," Human Rights Campaign, 2015-MAR-03, at: http://www.hrc.org/
  11. Hubert Tate, "HRC Unable to Confirm Any Counties Issuing Marriage Licenses to Same-Sex Couples," Human Rights Campaign, 2015-MAR-04, at: http://www.hrc.org/
  12. Jesse Berney, Alabama Just Seceded From the Union Again","Blue Nation Review, 2015-MAR-04. This site asks that the URL of their articles not be mentioned by other web sites. However, their home page is at: http://bluenationreview.com
  13. "Alabama Supreme Court halts same-sex marriage," CBS News, 2015-MAR-03, at: http://www.cbsnews.com/
  14. Kent Faulk, ","Alabama Media Group, "Alabama Supreme Court first in nation to defy federal court gay marriage order," 2015-FEB-06, at:http://www.al.com/
  15. Evelyn Schlatter, "18 Anti-Gay Groups and Their Propaganda," Southern Poverty Law Center, Intelligence Report, 2010-Winter Issue #140 at: http://www.splcenter.org/
  16. David Demirbilek, "Southern Poverty Law Center repeats 'hate group' claim about Family Research Council," Daily Caller, 2012-SEP-13, at: http://dailycaller.com/
  17. Brian Tashman, "Roy Moore: SCOTUS Gay Marriage Ruling Paves Way For Government To 'Take Your Children'," Right Wing Watch, 2015-MAR-09, at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/
  18. Alice Ollstein, "Same-Sex Couples In Alabama React To Supreme Court Ruling Overturning Marriage Equality," Think Progress, 2015-MAR-05, at: http://thinkprogress.org/
  19. Shannon P. Minter, "Civil Action No. 14-0424-CG-C," National Center for Lesbian Rights, filed 2015-MAR-06, at: http://documents.buzzfeed.com/
  20. Ian Millhiser, "How Gay Rights Attorneys Will Defeat Chief Justice Roy Moore In Alabama," Think Progress, 2015-MAR-09, at: http://thinkprogress.org/

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    Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > Alabama > here

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Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2015-MAR-05
Latest update: 2015-MAR-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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