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Religious Tolerance logo

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

Part 41: Alabama: 2016-MAR:
Alabama Supreme Court issues ruling.
The media can't agree on what it says.

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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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We are using the term "gay marriage" here instead of the more
inclusive term "same-sex marriage" to improve access to this essay.
"Gay marriage" is not an accurate description for those same-sex
marriages in which one or more spouses has a bisexual orientation.

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gavel2016-MAR-04: Alabama Supreme Court issues a ruling. Liberty Counsel describes it as a win for their group and for their plaintiffs. Other media outlets disagree:

  • About Liberty Counsel:

    They describe themselves as an:

    "... international nonprofit litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.": 1

    The "religious freedom" of which they speak is typically the religious freedom of religious conservatives to discriminate against others. This discrimination appears to violate the Golden Rule; that is a command by Jesus Christ to his followers that one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. Similar rules appear in all of the major religions of the world and in many secular belief systems, like Secular Humanism. Such discrimination also violates human rights legislation in many states and human rights ordinances in many municipalities.

    The "family" which Liberty Counsel "advances" is restricted to those led by two married spouses of opposite gender. Lately, a major part of their activity has concentrated on trying to prevent the solemnizing of gay marriages across the United States, notably in Kentucky.

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  • Summary of major events in Alabama during 2015 and 2016 concerning gay marriage:
    • 2015-FEB-13: Liberty Counsel filed a Petition for Mandamus on behalf of three Alabama clients: Probate Judge John E. Enslen of Elmore County, the the Alabama Policy Institute (API) and Alabama Citizens Action Program (ACAP). 1,2 According to the Free Dictionary. a Petition for Mandamus is:

      "...A writ or order that is issued from a court of superior jurisdiction that commands an inferior tribunal, corporation, municipal corporation, or individual to perform, or refrain from performing, a particular act. ..."

      Liberty Counsel's web site states that the writ demanded that:

      " ... the state’s probate judges obey Alabama’s Constitution and laws.''

      State law at the time prohibited gay marriages as a result of a constitutional amendment passed by over 80% of the voters.

    • 2015-MAR-04: The Alabama Supreme Court instructed probate judges throughout the state to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

    • 2015-JUN-26: The U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case. This legalized marriages by same-sex couples throughout the U.S., with the exception of the territory of American Samoa. Some states were slow to implement the High Court's ruling. Alabama was perhaps the slowest. Eight months later, most of the county probate judges in Alabama were issuing marriage licenses to both same -sex and opposite-sex couples. However, a few judges were refusing to issue marriage licenses to all couples. The judges appear to have reasoned that by discriminating against all couples, they were discriminating against none. Couples readily circumvented this restriction by traveling to adjacent counties to obtain their licenses.

    • 2016-MAR-04, exactly one year after the Alabama Supreme Court's instruction to the state's probate judges, that court issued its ruling for the Petition for Mandamus. It was almost 150 pages long!

      Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court wrote about the High Court's ruling in Obergefell:

      "Based upon arguments of 'love,' 'commitment,' and 'equal dignity' for same-sex couples, five lawyers, as Chief Justice Roberts so aptly describes the Obergefell majority, have declared a new social policy for the entire country. As the Chief Justice and Associate Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito eloquently and accurately demonstrate in their dissents, the majority opinion in Obergefell is an act of raw power with no ascertainable foundation in the Constitution itself. The majority presumed to legislate for the entire country under the guise of interpreting the Constitution.": 2

      Justice Parker of the Alabama Supreme Court wrote:

      "Obergefell is not based on legal reasoning, history, tradition, the Court’s own rules, or the rule of law, but upon the empathetic feelings of the 'five lawyers' in the majority."

      "Obergefell is without legitimacy."

      "This is not the rule of law, this is despotism and tyranny." 2

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    The title of Liberty Counsel's article on their web site seems to say it all: "Alabama Supreme Court Rejects U. S. Supreme Court’s Marriage Opinion." 1

    However, an article in the Christian Examiner quotes Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver as saying:

      "Some media reported the opposite of what the Alabama Supreme Court did. When the Alabama Supreme Court entered the Judgment on its March 2015 order and dismissed the ACLU's motion to reverse that order, the result was a clear victory for our case. 3

    Further, a Liberty Counsel news release stated:

      "The Alabama Supreme Court order upholding the marriage laws and ordering the probate judges to comply with those laws still remains in effect. The ACLU's request to reverse that order was dismissed."

    The Christian Examiner's article quotes headlines from three major media outlets:

      • NBCNews.com: "Alabama Supreme Court Refuses Challenge to Gay Marriage."

      • Los Angeles Times: "Alabama Supreme Court quashes conservative revolt against gay marriage."

      • Reuters: "Alabama high court tosses petitions challenging gay marriage." 3

    The Washington Post published an article by Sandhya Somashekhar titled "Ala. Supreme Court dismisses petitions opposing same-sex marriage." She wrote, in part:

    "The Alabama Supreme Court, which has been a high-profile holdout opposing same-sex marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay unions nationally last year, on Friday dismissed a set of petitions filed by conservatives who want the state’s ban on gay unions enforced.

    The order dismisses all pending motions and petitions, in effect ending those groups’ legal avenue to pursue their claims against same-sex marriage. However, in his 94-page concurring opinion, Alabama’s firebrand chief justice, Roy Moore, said that previous state orders barring gay marriage remain and are valid under the federal constitution. ..."

    "Susan Watson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said it appeared that in dismissing the petitions the justices were finally giving in to the reality that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay unions applied in Alabama as well.

    “In the end, they realize, whether they like it or not, the national U.S. Supreme Court decision holds and that’s the law of the land,” she said. 4

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This topic continues, and hopefully concludes, 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. "Alabama Supreme Court Rejects U. S. Supreme Court’s Marriage Opinion." Liberty Counsel, 2016-MAR-04, at: http://lc.org/
  2. Emergency petition for writ of Mandamus," 1140460, The Supreme Court of Alabama, Liberty Counsel, at: http://lc.org/
  3. Joni B. Hammigan, "LIBERTY COUNSEL: News media missed Alabama's Supreme Court historic action on same-sex marriage," Christian Examiner, 2016-MAR-07, at: http://www.christianexaminer.com/
  4. , "Ala. Supreme Court dismisses petitions opposing same-sex marriage," Washington Post, 2015-MAR-04, at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/

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

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Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2016-MAR-08
Latest update: 2016-OCT-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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