Thursday, February 12, 2015

In the News This Week: Alabama

And the next nesting doll (for an explanation of this allusion, please see the preceding posting): Alabama. And white evangelical values, dreams of nullification, defiance of the Constitution, memories of George Wallace and his stand in the schoolhouse door:

After a federal court struck down Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to permit a stay on same-sex marriages in that state, they began this week. That is, they began in a handful of counties, while most counties in the state continue to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and some are now refusing marriage licenses to any couples.

Al Jazeera reported on Monday

But amid marriage rights supporters’ jubilation, judges in at least 50 of the state’s 67 counties refused to grant licenses, the New York Times reported, citing LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign.

As of yesterday, as David Badash writes for New Civil Rights Movement, more than half of Alabama's counties are continuing to defy the federal court order (and, implicitly, the U.S. Supreme Court) as they refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  

As Timothy Kincaid reports today for Box Turtle Bulletin, the refusal of some counties to issue marriage licenses to anyone after same-sex couples were permitted to marry is now resulting in the blocking of 50 opposite-sex couples per day from marrying.

At the center of the drama? As Michelangelo Signorile notes for Huffington Post on Monday, it's Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore: 

Some Alabama probate judges, at least for the time being, are defying the United States Supreme Court today, refusing to grant marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples while other judges throughout the state are granting those licenses. The defiers are taking their orders from Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy S. Moore.

Rachel Maddow (video link): "Thanks to him [Judge Roy Moore], chaos reigns." As Steve Benen writes for the Maddow Blog on Tuesday, 

Yesterday was supposed to be a pretty straightforward day in Alabama. The state’s ban on marriage equality has been deemed unconstitutional by the federal courts, setting the stage for legal same-sex marriages statewide starting yesterday morning. It’s a process that’s unfolded without incident in three dozen other states. 
But there was nothing simple about events in Alabama yesterday. Some counties decided to honor the federal court rulings; most counties followed bizarre instructions issued by state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore (R); and 12 counties decided to simply stop issuing marriage licenses to everyone."

As Sarah Posner indicates for Religion Dispatches, at the heart of Moore's defiance of a federal court (and, implicitly, of the U.S. Supremes) is his conviction that his religious faith trumps any law that conflicts with his faith-based convictions:

That showdown between God and government is at the heart of Moore’s claims that he is on the side of righteousness and the federal courts on the side of an anti-God,

As one source after another is noting this week, we've been here before with Alabama: here are Alan Blinder and Richard Pérez-Piña for New York Times

Despite a federal judge’s rulings legalizing same-sex marriage, most probate judges in Alabama on Monday refused to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, escalating a legal showdown that echoed the battles over desegregation here in the 1960s.

And David Greenberg at Slate

Following a federal judge’s ruling striking down Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban, some probate judges are still refusing to grant marriage licenses to gay couples. This isn’t the first time conservative probate judges in the state have broken the law in order to avoid granting marriage licenses. In 1999, David Greenberg explained that some county clerks in Alabama refused to issue marriage licenses to interracial couples—long after a 1967 Supreme Court ruling that struck down bans against interracial marriage. The article is reprinted below.

And German Lopez for Vox 

Alabama has a history of trying to fight courts' civil rights rulings. 
In the 1960s, Alabama Gov. George Wallace, a Democrat at the time, infamously attempted to stop the desegregation of public schools after the Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, which deemed state laws establishing separate public schools for white and black students unconstitutional. This fight was part of a political promise for Wallace, who said at his inauguration, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

As Campbell Robertson and Shaila Dewan point out for New York Times, the name of the game that Roy Moore and Alabama's probate judges are playing isn't precisely to win: it's to go down fighting at all costs, with a "Fergit, hell!," flourish to commemorate the Lost Cause:

"George Wallace knew he was going to lose, too," he [i.e., Dan T. Carter, author of Politics of Rage] said. "But for political reasons it was important to emphasize that you were resisting to the end." He added:. "That is this kind of cultural tradition. It is part of this white Southern mystique — you lost the Civil War, but you went down fighting."

David Badash, at New Civil Rights Movement, notes that Moore is following in George Wallace's footsteps with his losing gesture of defiance:

"That stand [i.e., the defiant refusal to follow a federal judge's order backed by the Supreme Court], CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin says, at some point will have to be removed by federal judges. "This is the modern equivalent of George Wallace blocking the schoolhouse door," Toobin says, "and just like George Wallace, Judge Moore is going to lose this battle too."

As Timothy Kincaid notes for Box Turtle Bulletin, Moore and his followers know that they can kick Alabama's gay citizens around with impunity as they play their theatrical games, since those citizens are a tiny minority of the state's population, and are demeaned by the evangelical mainstream:

But, unlike in Florida, probate judges have decided that (in the words of Washington County Probate Judge Nick Williams) they "aren’t worried about following the U.S. Constitution." 
So they are playing the "my name isn’t on that order" game. Being elected politicians in a state that does not value the Equal Protections clause of the Constitution, they are seeking to gain election value by defying the nation’s guiding document. And damn the cost (or inconvenience to them homosexuals)!

For Politico, Todd Purdum points out that what Alabama is now doing puts GOP presidential hopefuls in a pinch: 

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s defiance of a federal court order on gay marriage is just the latest in a long line of bitter states’ rights fights on issues from school integration to the Confederate battle flag — and the latest potentially embarrassing political sideshow for the 2016 field of GOP presidential hopefuls.

But as Steve Benen indicates for the Maddow Blog, it's entirely possible that GOP presidential candidates will do the very same song and dance that Louisiana's Catholic governor Bobby Jindal did this week when asked if he approves of a state defying the orders of a federal court — and will refuse to address this issue straightforwardly at all:

There are all kinds of political figures poised to launch presidential campaigns, and last week they told us what they think about vaccines. Maybe this week they can tell us whether they’re comfortable with Alabama counties ignoring the federal courts? 
Bobby Jindal yesterday seemed reluctant to talk about it. What do Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Rick Perry think?

They may, in fact, seek to make political hay out of defiance, as former Arkansas governor (and Southern Baptist minister) Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul are now doing, as they choose to star in an anti-gay documentary.

This is, after all, a cul-de-sac into which some of the most promiment religious leaders of the country, including the U.S. Catholic bishops, have deliberately led us with their bogus religous liberty rhetoric, which the U.S. Catholic bishops invented: as Paul Gordon writes for HuffPo,

What would such a religiously balkanized nation look like? 
It would look a lot like Alabama does today. And it would be ugly. 
For decades, the far right has fought tooth and nail to impose their religious beliefs through government fiat. They have fought to prevent gays from marrying, to prevent women from exercising reproductive choice, to have public schools indoctrinate other people's children with their own religious beliefs -- the list goes on. And when they fail at changing the laws to match their religion, they seek exemptions from those laws in the name of "religious liberty."

Alabama is exactly what at least one Supreme, Clarence Thomas, a Catholic, wants see Adam Liptak at New York Times:

Justice Thomas accused the majority of an "indecorous" and "cavalier" attitude in refusing to maintain the status quo in Alabama at least until the Supreme Court issues its decision in the four pending cases. 

And so, isn't it odd that it's only when the traditional bitter enemy of Catholics, the Ku Klux Klan, applauds Judge Roy Moore for his defiance, that centrist Catholic journalists like Michael Sean Winters, who has long supported the U.S. bishops in their faux "religious liberty" crusade and who refuses to support the right of gay citizens to marriage, suddenly realize who they've been in bed with all along. Winters writes for National Catholic Reporter

But, if the choice is same-sex marriage or nullification, I will take same-sex marriage.

It's taken a long time for these Catholics to have their eyes opened, hasn't it? For them to see that, in their support for the bishops' "religious liberty" initiative and for the bishops' opposition to marriage equality, they've been playing footsie with people who believe in nullification of the Constitution? That they're in bed with the Klan?!

As Charles Pierce rightly notes, the loose talk we're hearing right now from Alabama about nullification should be taken with dead seriousness, because it's the most direct threat possible to American democracy, the common good, and the Union itself:

The probate judges that Moore threatened with [Alabama governor] Bentley's retaliation -- much to Bentley's surprise, I reckon --are now out there issuing marriage licenses to gay couples anyway, so this may have simply been much ado. But it is a window into the fact that the doctrine of nullification is still alive, if in modern dress, and that there are at least two justices on the current Supreme Court who are willing to treat it as something more than simply a constitutional anachronism the effects of which have been invariably destructive. This does not reassure me at all.

And as the courageous Montgomery attorney heading the Equal Justice Initiative concludes in an interview with Amy Goodman for Truthdig, 

As [attorney Bryan] Stevenson told me: "This is a state where you sometimes have to stand when other people are sitting. It’s a place where you have to speak when other people are quiet ... this is a state that’s going to continually have to confront its resistance to complying with the Constitution and respecting the dignity and aspirations of all people."

The graphic: an old postcard uploaded by the Alabama Department of Archives and History to its website to explain the slogan, "Alabama, the heart of Dixie."

No comments: