There's a big fight underway right now in Alabama, with a Judge overturning a marriage ban and state officials refusing to obey his order to issue licenses. Anti-gay politicians are threatening to ban all marriage licenses if the Supreme Court rules in favor of equality. And one lawmaker even wants to send clerks to jail if they issue licenses to anyone -- gay or straight.
Late on Friday, a Federal judge in Alabama ruled that the state's marriage ban is unconstitutional, and that the state must begin issuing licenses right away. Attorney General Luther Strange didn't care for that, and has asked for an indefinite stay. Meanwhile, a state association of judges has advised their members that they can just disregard the ruling. This is almost certainly dead wrong, and I'll talk about why in a minute. But as of this week, gay and lesbian couples are attempting to obtain marriage licenses in Alabama, so expect a tense standoff to play out over the next few days.
It's worth pointing out that last week President Obama made history by endorsing marriage equality in the State of the Union, saying that gay and lesbian couples getting married represents "America at its best." The last time anyone talked about marriage in a State of the Union was George W. Bush, calling for a federal constitutional ban, so this is a little better.
It makes good political sense to endorse marriage equality right now, because a new survey from Zogby shows that by 5 percentage points, voters are now less likely to vote for a candidate who opposes the freedom to marry. This puts some anti-equality Republicans in a tough spot. They can either admit they were wrong, and come out for marriage. Or they can double-down and get even more anti-gay.
That's what Mike Huckabee did last week. He said that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of equality, states don't have to obey the decision, and could still refuse to provide licenses. Obviously, that's not true at all, thanks to a litte-known document called the U.S. Constitution. Maybe Huckabee has just never read it as far as Article 6, which says "The Laws of the United States ... shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby." In fact, Huckabee's argument is identical to the one used in 1957 by another Arkansas Governor, Orval Faubus. He said the state didn't have to abide by the school desegregation ordered in Brown v. Board of Education, and President Eisenhower had to send the National Guard to force him to comply. So Huckabee's great company here.
In fact, in 1958, Governor Faubus closed all Little Rock high schools for a year, for white and black students, so they wouldn't have to be integrated. And now, that's exactly the same strategy that anti-gay officials are pursuing with marriage. In Florida, several counties have canceled all courthouse weddings, for straight and gay couples. A South Carolina bill would revoke the salary government employees who allow a gay or lesbian couple to marry. And a crazy proposal by Representative Todd Russ in Oklahoma would prohibit state officials from issuing marriage licenses altogether. Under his proposal, state officials who issue a marriage license to any couple, gay or straight, would go to jail for up to a year.
Obviously, judges refusing to obey federal rulings, and ludicrous bills Oklahoma's have no chance of passing constitutional muster. But they don't have to -- they're not supposed to pass, their only purpose is to intimidate. To let us know we're not welcome. Huckabee and Ross and officials like them are on the same page as segregationists like Orval Faubus. And that's how history will remember them. By the way Faubus ran for governor again, 30 years later, but he was defeated by a kid named Bill Clinton.