Hey, Mike Huckabee, Here’s Why Impeaching a Pro-Gay Judge Isn’t a Great Idea

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
May 13 2014 2:18 PM

Hey, Mike Huckabee, Here’s Why Impeaching a Pro-Gay Judge Isn’t a Great Idea

Mike Huckabee
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, whose predecessors in that job include Orval Faubus.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On Monday, Mike Huckabee—former Arkansas governor, failed presidential candidate, and noted misogynist—called for the impeachment of Arkansas County Circuit Judge Christopher Piazza after the judge invalidated his state’s gay marriage ban. “The Governor,” Huckabee proclaimed in a statement, “should call a special session of the legislature and impeach the judge and affirm the people’s will.” More specifically, the outspoken homophobe asserted that Piazza

decided that he is singularly more powerful than the 135 elected legislators of the state, the elected Governor, and 75 percent of the voters of the state. Apparently he mistook his black robe for a cape and declared himself to be “SUPER LAWMAKER!”
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Judges frequently face calls for impeachment after a controversial ruling, of course; they usually fizzle out in a few weeks. But if Huckabee does pursue the impeachment route, he’ll be continuing a time-honored tradition of Arkansas governors threatening to impeach any judge who dares to protect the rights of disfavored minorities. After all, it was Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus who openly rejected U.S. District Judge Ronald Davies’ order to integrate Little Rock Central High School in 1957, surrounding the school with the Arkansas National Guard to prevent black students from entering. Faubus believed Davies’ order violated state sovereignty and flouted the will of “the great majority of Arkansas.”

In the midst of the crisis, Faubus and his attorney announced that Judge Davies’ “impeachment [should] be the first order of business of the next Congress.” The judge’s order, Faubus claimed, was simply too “far-reaching,” too contradictory to the wishes of Arkansans, to be valid. And the “prejudiced and biased” judge’s refusal to halt integration in the states, the governor and his lawyer noted, “is ample grounds for his impeachment.”

This is the legacy that Huckabee is reviving and revitalizing in his quest to impeach Judge Piazza. His eagerness to vilify a judge who dares to value the federal constitution’s command of equality over a state constitution’s irrational bigotry aligns him quite squarely with the tradition of anti-integration Southern extremists. If that’s the not-so-subtle dog whistle Huckabee hopes to send to supporters as he contemplates his next presidential run, so be it. But by borrowing tactics and vocabulary from one of the most noxiously bigoted movements in modern American history, Huckabee is essentially admitting that his objection to Judge Piazza’s ruling has more to do with his own anti-gay animus than with some abstract devotion to “the people’s will.”

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.

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