The Alabama Supreme Court ruled yesterday against a collection of petitions requesting that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage be upheld over the new federal law, according to a report from NBC News. The decision dismisses petitions from the Alabama Policy Institute (a non-profit conservative think-tank), the Alabama Citizens Action Program (an “interdenominational ministry” claiming to serve as “Alabama’s moral compass”), and Elmore County’s probate judge John E. Enslen. The petitions were also supported by the American College of Pediatricians, an anti-LGBTQ hate group, as per the SPLC.
In a nutshell, the ruling means that same-sex marriage is still legal in Alabama, and the petitions against it have been permanently tossed. The court issued a single-sentence order dismissing the challenges, and in one of the several accompanying writings, Justice Greg Shaw referred to the order as a “clear refusal” to ignore the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across the country.
Other state justices protested the ruling but noted that they could not overturn it, including Chief Justice Roy Moore, who repeatedly attempted to assert to probate judges in Alabama that the state’s laws banning same-sex marriage remained in effect; thankfully, most probate judges have been ignoring that order. Moore referred to the Supreme Court order as a “lawless act.”
Meanwhile, lawyers for the groups attempting to oppose same-sex marriage in Alabama have admitted that the Supreme Court’s order effectively puts an end to their legal options in attempting to oppose or circumvent the decision. However, they expect to see opposition and rebellion on the local level continue.
Since the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015, that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, many of Alabama’s 67 counties have simply stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether. Randall Marshall, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said in an email that he doesn’t expect to see any changes in this subsequent to the Supreme Court’s decision.
Eric Johnston, the API’s lawyer, is convinced that they only lost on the technicality of actually having to follow the law and believes that Alabama justices are still firmly on their side.
“My initial reading of it is that the justices were bound by Obergefell and they have agreed that Obergefell is controlling and that the opinion from March will not now be in effect. They, however, all strongly expressed disagreement with Obergefell but as a matter of the rule of law they had to follow it.
Sadly, Johnston is right. According to AL.com, while the Supreme Court of Alabama upheld the Obergefell decision, they attached 169 pages of written opinion on what they think about the SCOTUS ruling, all of it negative, with all nine justices concurring and seven writing separately.
Chief Justice Moore, in particular, still believes that the state’s ban is intact in spite of their own ruling yesterday.
“Today this Court by order dismisses all pending motions and petitions and issues the certificate of judgment in this case. That action does not disturb the existing March orders in this case or the Court’s holding therein that the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment,… and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act, § 30-1-9, Ala. Code 1975, are constitutional.
“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.”
“The (SCOTUS) opinion appeals more to emotion than law, reminding one of the 1974 song ‘Feelings’ by Morris Albert, which begins: ‘Feelings, nothing more than feelings.’ […] Obergefell is but the latest example of the Court’s creation of constitutional rights out of thin air in service of the immorality of the sexual revolution.”
It’s clear that while today’s ruling represents a victory, it’s a fairly Pyrrhic one; the Alabama court system is still unashamedly hostile to LGBTQ people and took the opportunity to remind us all.
[Photo by Butch Dill/AP]