Gay marriage issue settled, Moore should stop stirring pot

Published 11:58 pm Friday, January 8, 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court last June legalized same-sex marriage. We said at the time that most Alabamians probably disagreed with the ruling, but it was the law of the land and the issue was closed.

Leave it to Roy Moore to try and reopen it.

Moore, chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court and a vociferously vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, issued an order Wednesday saying his court’s directive from last March that state probate judges not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples remains in effect. He never directly told probate judges not to issue the licenses, mind you, just said they had a “ministerial duty” not to do so.

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Nevertheless, at least three counties that had been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples stopped doing so, although Lawrence and Madison counties resumed the practice Thursday.

Some Alabama probate judges have stopped issuing marriage licenses to anyone because of moral objections to same-sex marriage. State law lets them do that, although federal court cases on the issue are ongoing. However, most probate judges who are issuing licenses to everyone, including Etowah County’s Bobby Junkins, are wisely ignoring Moore. As Junkins noted, counties that are struggling to make ends meet don’t have the resources to defend against the lawsuits following Moore’s “suggestion” would produce (or pay the resulting damages, since those suits would be guaranteed winners).

Moore justified his order by saying the U.S. Supreme Court decision didn’t specifically cover Alabama’s case. That’s more than silly, it’s balderdash. U.S. Supreme Court rulings of that scope are legal precedent from coast to coast and border to border. Moore knows that. So why has he stuck his paddle back into the cauldron?

Perhaps it’s frustration that the state and country, other than skirmishes like the Kim Davis situation in Kentucky, seem to have moved forward on gay marriage, and he’s hoping to get opponents engaged and back out protesting. Our cynical side has to wonder if he’s seeking attention — more chances to go on TV and impress folks with his knowledge of esoteric and obscure writings by the Founding Fathers — with an eye to future political races.

Of course Alabamians knew what they were getting when they returned Moore to the chief justice’s post. We’re not underestimating his support, or the disinterest his backers have in another national black eye for the state.

Still, we can’t help but think of Act 5, Scene 5 of “Macbeth” — the part about “sound and fury” and “signifying nothing,” because that’s what Moore’s order is.

Issues of constitutional law and civil rights are decided federally in this country, with the U.S. Supreme Court having the last word. State and local judges have every right as citizens to express opinions on issues of law and morality. However, even a state chief justice has no more business meddling with such things in an official capacity, once they’ve been decided, than a justice of the peace in an Elvis costume marrying people in a Vegas chapel.

It’s time to stop stirring this pot.

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