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. He sent out a letter Sunday night defying a federal judge's ruling, ordering probate judges not to give out licenses, and, as in the past, he couldn't care less what the U.S. Supreme Court has to say.
Back in 2011, Moore told me in a lengthy interview that the Supreme Court cannot supersede God, simply because the United States is a Christian nation. Moore, who'd been chief justice from 2001 to 2003, had been famously removed from the Alabama Supreme Court by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary after he refused to follow a federal ruling -- which went up to the Supreme Court -- that he had to remove a Ten Commandments monument he'd placed in the courthouse rotunda. He spent the next few years staging a comeback, running for governor twice (and losing) and even talking up a possible run for the presidency. He was eventually elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court once again in 2012.
"Are laws themselves superseded by God?" I asked him in that interview on my radio program in 2011. "I think you're correct in saying that," he answered. "This is a Christian nation by the fact that 90% of the churches in America are Christian churches and it's certainly founded upon Christian principles. The supreme law of the land is the Constitution of the United States which recognizes many of those principles. Our freedom to believe what we want comes from God. When it comes from God, no man or no court, can take it away. That's a God-given right under the Declaration of Independence, which is law itself."
Moore's theocratic ideology doesn't sound much different from that of Saudi Arabia's rulers, or that of ISIS, using Islamic fundamentalism as a basis of law. Ironically, when I interviewed Moore in 2007, he'd just attacked Democratic Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim-American elected to Congress and man who was sworn in on a Koran (Thomas Jefferson's, to be precise) rather than a Bible. Moore told me that Ellison was wrong to swear into office on the Koran because the First Amendment didn't allow mingling government with religion -- but more specifically, he meant, it didn't allow government mingling with Ellison's religion.
"[Islam is] a faith that conflicts with the First Amendment of the Constitution," he said. "The Constitution and Declaration of Independence has [sic] a direct reference to the Holy Scriptures."
There is no mention of Scripture or the Bible in the Constitution, but facts and logic don't matter here anyway, since Moore is driven purely by visceral bigotry. In 2002, he wrote a 9-0 decision in which the Alabama Supreme Court gave custody of three teenagers to their heterosexual father rather than their lesbian mother after the parents divorced.
"Homosexuality," Moore wrote in the decision, is "an inherent evil, and if a person openly engages in such a practice, that fact alone would render him or her an unfit parent." Moore went on to say that homosexuality is "abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature."
When I asked Moore where in the law or in the Constitution it stated such things, he said, "I quoted the law. The [British] common law designated homosexuality as an inherent evil. The Constitution is predicated on the [British] common law. I'm quoting the history of the [British] common law upon which our Constitution is based."
Moore said that even after the ruling by the Supreme Court in 2003 that struck down sodomy bans across the country, it wouldn't change his view or his decision.
"What the court said is that you couldn't punish [sodomy] criminally," he said. "The court did not say that sodomy or homosexuality had any kind of public right."
So don't think for a minute that the Supreme Court's decision to allow gay and lesbian couples in Alabama to marry now, or any decision it hands down in favor of marriage equality in June, will stop Roy Moore, whose current term doesn't end until 2018. With enough Alabamians behind him, having been elected as chief justice twice -- once after being removed from the court for misconduct while standing on religious principles -- Moore knows that blatant homophobia gets him elected in a state that has no protections for LGBT people and where there will surely be a backlash to marriage equality. He could quite possibly use the current conflict as a way to run for the governorship again (or other political office), ensuring that his antigay crusade continues.