Marriage starts today in Alabama, and the usual suspects are still trying to figure out some way to stop it. Nebraska accidentally passed a bill that will recognize gay and lesbian couples, but only when they’re carrying a concealed firearm. And we’re on a fast track for rulings in several southern states.
For the American Foundation for Equal Rights, I’m Matt Baume, and welcome to Marriage News Watch for February 9, 2015.
Hey there. Things changed a little bit after I shot and edited this week’s video, so I’ve added this little message at the beginning to update you. A federal court ruled that marriage should be starting now in Alabama, but late Sunday night, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore ordered state judges to disobey that federal ruling and block marriages.
Now Moore has created a constitutional crisis. What he’s doing is equivalent to George Wallace standing in a schoolhouse door to stop school integration. And just like with Wallace in 1963, federal law enforcement officers may have to intervene in Alabama. Whatever happens, just bear in mind that the next few days are going to have a few twists and turns. The situation’s moving quickly and might’ve changed again by the time you see this. This is just how the civil rights fight is sometimes. A little messy, a little unpredictable, but always worth it in the end. And here’s this week’s episode.
This is it: as of today, marriage is legal in Alabama. Previously, officials said that they needed more time to prepare, in part because all of their forms say husband and wife. But miraculously, faced with a court order, they seem to have managed to alter the forms in the nick of time. Meanwhile, the people you’d expect to be outraged are all outraged. First, there’s Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange — that’s his real name — he’s asked the U.S. Supreme Court put a stop to the marriages, but that’s probably not going to happen. In December, the Supreme Court let marriage start in Florida under almost the same set of circumstances. So, for now, marriage is probably safe in Alabama, and there’s not much Luther Strange can do about it.
Next up, there’s Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore. He’s the guy who got removed from office in 2003 for judicial misconduct when he refused to follow a federal order about a Ten Commandments statue. Voters re-elected him in 2012, and no surprise, he’s once again threatening to disregard federal courts. Moore wrote a letter to Alabama judges, telling them that the federal courts can’t tell them what to do. The fact that he was removed from office for making that claim just a few years ago doesn’t seem to have made much of an impression on him. Anyway, Moore is just wrong. The rulings are binding, marriage is legal, and if judges do refuse to issue the licenses, they can be found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to a fine or jail time.
There’s also Mike Huckabee, who’s had a lot to say last week. First he called being gay a “lifestyle” and compared being gay to drinking alcohol, liking ballet, or going to the opera. Then he said that asking businesses to recognize gay or lesbian couples is like asking a Jewish deli to serve bacon and shrimp. And finally he said that marriage equality is like forcing a Muslim family to have dogs in their backyard. The main takeaway from this is that Mike Huckabee is bad at analogies.
And finally, there’s State Senator Del Marsh, who said that marriage equality is a bad idea because gay and lesbian people will expect to get Social Security benefits, and use each others’ insurance, and that will cost the state too much money. But costing money has never been an excuse for states to violate the U.S. Constitution. On top of that, studies show that marriage equality actually saves money, because it reduces spending on Medicare and Medicaid, and that marriage will add $21.7 million to Alabama’s economy over the next three years. Not to mention, there are a lot more straight married couples than gay ones in Alabama, so if Senator Marsh really wanted to save some money, he could start denying Social Security to straight couples.
Elsewhere in the country, Nebraska may accidentally start recognizing gay and lesbian couples. The state just passed a concealed weapons law that applies to military spouses. Because the military recognizes same-sex marriages, that means that Nebraska would, too — but only for the purposes of having a concealed weapon. It’s a start.
Congratulations to all the happy couples in Alabama. Those are the headlines, subscribe here to stay up to date on all these stories. For the American Foundation for Equal Rights, I’m Matt Baume. Thanks for watching and we’ll see you next week.