Alabama is once again on the wrong side of history as it attempts to circumvent a federal court’s decision declaring the Alabama state ban on same sex marriage to be unconstitutional. Despite a federal judge ruling that same sex marriage is legal in Alabama, another state judge, Chief Justice Roy S. Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court forbid the judges and courts from issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples this week. The Supreme Court refused to hear the federal case on Monday and thereby left the federal court’s decision intact. Federal Judge Granade who issued the federal decision making same sex marriage legal in Alabama is surprisingly an appointee of former President George W. Bush. But that did not stop many counties in Alabama from refraining to issue marriage licenses. Some counties did comply with the law.
The refusal for Alabama to comply with the law on same sex marriage is a reminder of how Alabama dealt with civil rights issues and laws in the 1960’s. As we are still in Black History Month, it is worth noting that Alabama’s handling of gay rights now is how it handled civil rights and desegregation in the 1960’s. During the 1960’s, the now infamous Alabama Governor George Wallace defied federal courts when segregation was banned. Wallace who was famous for his 1963 speech, “Segregation Now, Segregation Tomorrow and Segregation Forever” stood in opposition to the law of the land declaring an end to segregation and allowing African Americans to attend schools and universities along with white Americans. He not only spoke in defiance but acted upon his words as the present political officials in Alabama are doing with gay rights. Wallace stood at the doors of the University of Alabama in defiance to prohibit blacks from registering and entering the school in 1963. And we see how the same dark history is playing out today in Alabama with same sex marriage.
Alabama is the 37th state to make same sex marriage legal, despite that some of the judges there may believe otherwise. In the 1960’s, Alabama held strongly against desegregation and interracial marriage. Today, it is same sex marriage that Alabama is strongly against. As in the 1960’s when Alabama stood strongly in support of segregation, it once again stands on the wrong side of the law. Just like in the 1960’s, the tide is turning against the ways and thinking of Alabama. The U.S. Supreme Court will take up the issue of gay rights and marriage equality in this term with 4 cases from Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Michigan which many legal scholars believe will decide the issue once and for all—most likely in favor of marriage equality.
For Alabama, it once again believes that the issue should be one of state’s rights and not for a federal court to declare that gays may marry in the State of Alabama. And just like in the 1960’s with civil rights and desegregation, Alabama was wrong then and is wrong now. While some do not like the analogy of gay rights to civil rights, one can’t but help to see the similarities in the way that Alabama dealt with both issues. And just as during the 1960’s era, Alabama political officials and state judges must reconcile that the law has changed, whether they like it or not. Alabama is now in the majority as the 37th state to make same sex marriage legal.