Well, you have to hand it to Alabama’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. When he sets out to make the state look like it’s run by a bunch of half-witted goobers, he generally succeeds in spades.
Late Sunday, Moore issued an edict that as grand poobah of the state’s judicial system he was telling probate court judges they’d better not start marrying gay couples the next morning even though the federal courts had struck down the state’s laws against same-sex marriage.
Of course Moore’s had a two-week-long stay in the federal ruling within which to issue his decree, but chose the dramatic 11th-hour route as same sex couples around the state were no doubt hoping to make Feb. 9 their wedding day. So what transpired was mass confusion, with some probate court judges going ahead and marrying gay couples and others refusing to marry anyone, straight, gay or related.
Moore claimed to issue his decree in order to stop the “confusion and disarray in the administration of the law…” but it appears he has played the biggest role in causing exactly that.
At Moore’s urging, many of the state’s probate judges — including those in Mobile and Baldwin Counties — kept the windows shut and sent same-sex and shotgun-wedding couples alike looking for something else to do with their rice. (Or bubbles, or whatever is politically correct to throw or blow at a just-married couple these days.) But there were some probate judges who gave Wild Bill Moore the finger and started marrying gay couples Monday morning anyway. You could just feel the fabric of society unraveling as they did. At least Moore could. Most of the rest of us probably didn’t notice any particular change.
As someone whose own views on this matter have changed over time, I understand same-sex marriage is a hot-button issue for many people. Some feel it’s the last stop before people start having sex with mini horses and … oh, wait. I guess what I mean is there are many folks who feel if the marriage buffet is widened to include people of the same sex, some may become confused and arbitrarily marry someone of their own gender.
True, it’s not an easy subject to explain to children. We recently had a cover story about this very issue with the same-sex couple whose lawsuit led us to the point where we now rest. While eating dinner with my 12- and 10-year-old at Dew Drop a couple of weeks ago, they were looking at the picture on the cover of Lagniappe of the two women and asking if they were getting married.
They were a little giggly, but I explained it wasn’t that big a deal anymore and how it was very likely to be rather common soon. By the time the chili dogs arrived they’d moved on to other matters. These two pre-teens seemed to get the idea much easier than our state’s chief justice.
It seems to me Moore has abused his position in this case. He’s let his personal religious beliefs get in the way of interpreting the law and simultaneously birthed a legion of lawsuits that will be lost by those attempting to stop same-sex marriage from happening in Alabama.
I won’t make yet another Wallace-at-the-schoolhouse-door comparison, but Moore’s order does pander to the portion of our society unaccepting of most any change. And it panders simply for his self-aggrandizement. Roy Moore didn’t stop gay marriage in Alabama, as I’m sure some people think. It’s happened. Same-sex couples got married in Alabama Monday.
But when it comes time for re-election or running for whatever political office he seeks next, Moore is going to be out there claiming he stood up against same-sex marriage, when all he really did was claim it as his own wedge issue in upcoming political races.
Not that we’ve ever given much of a damn about what the rest of the country thinks about us, but much like as in past civil rights struggles, everyone else is watching and thinking “You can always count on those yokels in Alabama to make asses out of themselves.”
When Moore issued his decree Sunday there are a couple of things he knew: 37 of our 50 states — including Alabama — have allowed same-sex marriage. He also knows the U.S. Supreme Court is gearing up to rule on the issue this spring, and it’s widely believed they will once and for all legalize gay marriage in the United States. Doing otherwise would be akin to trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
What do you do with all the people who’ve been legally married in the interim? Just say, “Um, sorry folks, but remember that thing we said about you being married? That might have been a bit premature. If it’s not too much trouble would you please hand over your wedding bands and return your wedding gifts.”
So heading into making this stand, Roy Moore knew he was tilting at windmills. But he’s counting on there being more people out there applauding his moves than there are hanging their heads in embarrassment.
If you think Roy’s last-second move was based in his keen reading of the law rather than him trying to be a political Kanye West, consider the statement he included as part of it.
“It’s an aberration of our institution in Alabama. It violated Alabama law. I don’t like to say anybody shouldn’t be happy, but nobody is stopping them from living together. Nobody is stopping them from leaving their wills to each other and doing anything they want to do with relation to each other. It is about the institution of marriage, and when that institution is destroyed it is the basic building block of our society.”
I’m sure some reading this might agree with Moore’s attitudes about same-sex marriage, but in making that statement he is clearly stepping outside the bounds of what he ought to be doing as Supreme Court justice and striding up to the pulpit to deliver what sounds a lot more like a sermon.
At the end of the day Moore didn’t do anything except embarrass the state — again — in the name of his political desires.
The Two Joe Cains will unhappily wed in Sunday’s People’s Parade