On Wednesday, law-disdaining Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore ordered probate judges throughout the state to stop granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples—in effect, outlawing marriage equality in the state. Moore, who has called homosexuality an “inherent evil” and a “crime against nature,” insisted that the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which found that same-sex marriage bans violate the federal Constitution, was not binding in Alabama because the state was not a party to that specific litigation. Because Orbergefell did not “directly invalidate” Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban, Moore wrote, the law remains in force until the Alabama supreme court strikes it down. Since the Alabama supreme court recently declared that it held the power to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court when its rulings contravene “ideas of marriage indisputably ... shaped by the Jewish and Christian religions,” Moore has essentially announced that same-sex marriage will remain permanently banned in his state.
We should treat Moore’s order with the same respect and reverence that Moore has shown for his office—which is to say, absolutely none at all. At best, Moore’s order reads like a senior prank by an underachieving high school student. To review: Yes, Obergefell directly applied only to Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. The Supreme Court’s ruling, however, was not so limited: “The Fourteenth Amendment,” the majority held, “requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex.” Not those four states, but every state. And that ruling supersedes any state laws or court decisions to the contrary, thanks to the Supremacy Clause. Put differently, Moore and his colleagues can throw as many temper tantrums as they want—but they can’t override the United States Supreme Court.
Moore deserves a half-point for correctly stating that, because Obergefell did not directly implicate Alabama’s marriage ban, the law could remain in effect until a judge explicitly invalidates it. But he fails to mention that a judge already struck it down. Last January, Judge Callie Granade tossed out the Alabama ban as a violation of the 14th Amendment, a decision which the U.S. Supreme Court seemed to endorse. She reaffirmed her decision in May. Then, following Obergefell, Granade explicitly held that the ruling invalidated Alabama’s marriage law—precisely the legal formality which Moore says never occurred.
You might think Moore would remember this series of events, since he repeatedly and illegally blocked Granade’s rulings. Instead, he has conveniently forgotten them, and twisted the facts to make it seem as though Alabama’s marriage laws are hazy and in flux. They aren’t. Same-sex marriage is legal throughout the state, and will remain that way unless Obergefell is overruled. If Roy Moore wants to change that fact, he can push for his state to secede from the union. Until then, he’ll have to recognize that even those “inherent[ly] evil” homosexuals do, in fact, have rights under the Constitution.