Four Takeaways from Alabama’s Marriage Equality Case

More exciting marriage equality news out of the Supreme Court yesterday. The Court denied Alabama’s request to stay same-sex marriages that were to begin on Monday due to the January 23rd ruling by federal Judge Callie Granade.

Many people see this ruling as a sign of things to come when the Supreme Court decides whether marriage bans are unconstitutional.While we wait for the Court’s final say, here are my takeaways from Monday’s decision. 

1.  Marriages Started Immediately: Judge Granade stayed her own ruling until February 9th to allow the State to make its appeal. However, within hours of the Supreme Court’s refusal to step in, marriages took place.  According to the Associated Press, at least seven of Alabama’s 67 counties dispensed marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

2.  Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Calls for Defiance:  Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore argued that Judge Granade’s ruling was an illegal intrusion on Alabama’s sovereignty and demanded that Alabama’s probate Judges refuse licenses to same-sex couples. Moore’s order has caused confusion around the state and led some counties to shut down granting marriage licenses all together.  Couples in at least 42 Alabama counties have encountered difficulties in obtaining marriage licenses, according to Reuters.

3.  Hard Not to See the Comparison to the 1960s: The situation with Justice Moore eerily mirrors the defiance of Former Governor George Wallace’s call for “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” in his inauguration speech. Later that year,  he tried to prevent two black students from enrolling at the University of Alabama, even though a federal ordered allowed them to do so. It’s hard to believe that just 50 years ago, my parents watched their rights hang in the balance as people like Wallace vowed to deny them equality. Now I’m witnessing a similar fight for my own rights.  Let’s hope Justice Moore can have the same change of heart that Wallace did.

4A Sign of Things to Come? In the dissenting opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “[t]his acquiescence may well be seen as a signal of the court’s intended resolution of that question.” He added, "This is not the proper way for the court to carry out its role under the Constitution.”  I can’t tell from the language whether Thomas is upset by the "signal” itself or the eventual outcome (likely both). But I, and I’m sure many others, hope it is a sign of things to come.

We now have 37 states with full marriage equality. Can’t wait to see what comes in June.