Supreme Court refuses to cater to prejudice regarding gay marriage
Gay marriage is worthy of support, but states deserve rights, too
Subverting the law for the sake of equality is ultimately a worthwhile endeavor.
Lora and Julie, the first same-sex couple to marry in Etowah County, Alabama on Monday would certainly agree.
So, too, would Olanda and Dianah, Cooper and Jessie and all the same-sex couples in Alabama who finally saw their relationships recognized and legalized after the Supreme Court declined to block a January federal court order that made states begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.
Voters in Alabama approved a statewide ban on gay marriage in 2006 by a 4-to-1 margin.
But this January, U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade ruled that the law was unconstitutional after hearing an adoption case involving a same-sex couple.
As a judge in the Federal District Court, Granade initiated an intense debate over Alabama’s gay marriage law with her ruling.
The attorney general’s office in Alabama immediately expressed its opposition, with Attorney General Luther Strange turning to first a federal appeals court in Atlanta, and then bringing the legal battle to the Supreme Court.
In both cases, the state’s arguments failed to sway the federal courts.
Alabama’s desperation to maintain a prejudicial and discriminatory ban is clearly deplorable. There’s little to debate about the state’s stance against gay marriage – it’s simply wrong.
But the dilemma about the legal rights of states versus the federal courts’ is murkier.
It’s satisfying to hear that the Supreme Court struck down a state’s request, but only because doing so supported the cause of gay marriage and allowed for an expansion of freedoms.
Looking past the context, the legal actions that brought same sex marriage to Alabama are questionable.
It was a judge for the Federal District Court – not the state – who first declared the ban to be unconstitutional. And it was a federal appeals court, and the Supreme Court that proceeded to quash a state’s request to maintain its laws.
If a federal judge can strike down state law and have that supported in the nation’s highest court, then states’ rights are endangered.
Clearly, the majority of the population in Alabama supports a ban on gay marriage. As unpleasant as that is, the state has the right to represent and support the voters’ opinions with laws that back them up.
Most of the nation, at this point, does support gay marriage. So at a national level, Alabama is an outlier, but they have the right to differ from the rest of the nation – until a federal ruling on gay marriage is announced.
At the same time, it’s an embarrassment to live in a country where some states still deny equal rights on the basis of sexual orientation.
And the judges in Alabama who are refusing to issue marriage licenses of any kind just to avoid marrying gay couples aren’t doing much to generate sympathy for the state’s plight.
After all, there’s something pleasantly ironic about a state, in its quest to deny same-sex couples their rights, losing its legal rights and influence along the way.