Lawmakers in Alabama have been trying to ban same-sex marriages in that state for almost 20 years. First, the governor tried an executive order. Two years later, the Alabama state Congress approved a house statute, and then finally in 2006 they were able to add an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage (amendment 774). That all came to an end last month, when Federal District Court judge, Callie Granade made a ruling on the marriage ban while viewing a couple of lawsuits pertaining to same-sex couples. She ruled that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional under amendment 14. Immediately, the Chief Justice of the Alabama state Supreme Court Roy Moore issued a statement that the federal Constitution could not outweigh the wishes of the people of Alabama. He threatened the various county probate judges around Alabama that if they issued a same-sex marriage certificate, that they would be subject to punishment by the governor. In response to that threat, federal Judge Granade ruled on January 29, 2015 that the ban needed to be lifted by February 9, 2015, and then proceeded to order Attorney General Strange to lift the ban on same-sex marriages. Strange immediately fought back, appealing to the federal Supreme Court for a stay on Judge Granade’s decision. His wish was that the ban could wait to be lifted until the Supreme Court ruled on it as federal matter, later in the year. As mentioned above, the Supreme Court denied the stay and the ban on same-sex marriage in Alabama was lifted, making it the 37th state to allow same-sex marriage. Now that may seem like a victory, but what happened next is even more interesting, hilarious and hopefully not damaging to the LGBT community.
This part of the story centers around state Chief Justice Roy Moore, but a little bit of his history must be explained first. He was a captain in the U.S. Army, and head of the MP unit. He was known by his soldiers as “Captain America”, because he was a stickler for the rules. Moore even states in his biography, that he would sleep with sandbags below his cot while deployed in South Vietnam, out of fear that his own soldiers would place a grenade under his bed. After he was discharged from the military, Moore decided to get into law. He lost a few elections for various attorney positions, before being selected as a circuit judge in Alabama. Roy Moore always attributed that luck to God, and that fundamentalism carried with him into the courtroom, and his rulings. Therefore, intent on applying Christian teachings to his rulings, he demanded that a prayer be said in his courtroom every morning, and the Ten Commandments be displayed prominently behind him on the stand. Eventually, his morning prayer was found to be unconstitutional but his Ten Commandments plaque was allowed to remain.
In the following years, Roy Moore attempted two failed gubernatorial attempts, as well as two failed presidential attempts. The second abandoned presidential attempt in 2011 provided Moore with a little bit of funds to pursue a second run as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Interestingly enough, his main campaign contributor, Michael Peroutka, has known ties to various white supremacy groups in Alabama, but Justice Moore has denied any correlation of beliefs with these groups. He won his seat back easily, and that put him in the position to rule against various same-sex cases, as well as have an amazing impact on the proceedings of the lifting of the marriage ban in Alabama yesterday.
After Justice Moore and Attorney General Strange failed to get the federal Supreme Court to approve their stay, Moore sent a direct message to all the probate judges in Alabama. He ordered them to ignore the federal ruling, and not to issue same-sex marriage certificates. Some of the judges consented, and chose not issue same sex certificates. Other judges elected to remove themselves from accountability, yet still comply with Moore’s order, by denying all marriage certificates, straight or otherwise. Nine of the judges, ignored the order altogether, electing to do the job they were elected for. Once again, Chief Justice Moore had elected to ignore a federal mandate, in light of his personal religious belief. This time however, his actions will not only affect himself, but those of the probate judges below him, not to mention the multitude of same sex couples in Alabama.