Ten years ago the Alabama Legislature, led by Democrats, proposed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Nine years ago, Alabama voters approved that amendment by an overwhelming majority.
Last week, a Bush-appointed federal judge in Mobile ruled against the state citing its ban on the recognition of gay marriage.
On Monday, the same judge ruled in another case that Alabama’s law violates the rights of those wishing to marry.
As you can imagine, this has caused heated debate among state leaders, politicos and really anyone with an opinion on the issue.
Early proponents of the rulings were under the impression that gay couples could receive marriage licenses as early as Monday.
“Not so fast,” said the Alabama Probate Judges Association. Al Agricola, an attorney for the association, said the ruling only applies to parties named in the case. Therefore, probate judges must “issue marriage licenses in accordance with Alabama law.”
Alabama’s Republican Attorney General Luther Strange has been fighting to appeal the rulings. In fact, the judge has agreed to ‘stay’, or place on hold, the ruling for two weeks; but she isn’t willing to wait forever.
“As long as a stay is in place, same-sex couples and their families remain in a state of limbo with respect to adoption, child care and custody, medical decisions, employment and health benefits, future tax implications, inheritance and many other rights associated with marriage,” wrote U.S. District Judge Callie Granade.
Alabama’s Republican Speaker of the House, currently facing 23 felony charges of corruption, also chimed in through a prepared statement. “It is outrageous when a single unelected and unaccountable federal judge can overturn the will of millions of Alabamians who stand firm in support of the Sanctity of Marriage Act,” said the Speaker.
On the other side, Alabama’s only openly gay lawmaker Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, supported the ruling saying she did not expect it so soon. After seeing heated opposition from other state lawmakers, Rep. Todd stated that she is prepared to ‘out’ her colleagues who are having extramarital affairs and who are making degrading statements about same-sex couples in light of the rulings.
The issue is a divisive one, with many different people from many different backgrounds, cultures and experiences viewing it in differing ways.
But, one thing is certain, as much as this is a human issue affecting real lives and real families; it is also a serious states’ rights issue. Less than a decade ago, it was deliberated and agreed upon by both parties and by voters.
Now, a federal judge with the stroke of a pen has overturned the will of the people in the name of equality under the law.
Federalism is defined as “the distribution of power between a central authority and the constituent units.” By that definition, it seems this issue is one that will be decided in the central authority’s courts, not the constituent unit’s legislature.