Judge Alan King, of Jefferson County, has found himself in an impossible position with regards to same-sex marriage, thanks to State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. After U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade struck down Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban, Moore ordered all probate judges and county officials not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in direct contravention of Granade’s ruling. Judge King filed a motion with the U.S. District Court, asking to intervene in one of the federal cases in Granade’s court as a way to seek relief in the event that he’s held responsible for violating someone’s orders. NBC News reports that Judge Granade denied his motion.
According to AL.com, the motion said the following:
“Judge King faces an imminent risk of being subjected to a state court order that will put him in the position of having to choose either to disregard the United States Constitution, which he is sworn to uphold, thereby subjecting him to liability and perhaps personal liability for damages and attorney fees, or to disregard a state court order thereby subjecting him to contempt proceedings, sanctions and/or possible impeachment under Alabama law. Judge King seeks relief from this court.”
This situation gets more and more convoluted. Last week, Judge Granade ordered Probate Judge Don Davis to start issuing the marriage licenses, which he and others had refused to do because of Chief Justice Moore. All hell then broke loose in the deep southern, right-wing state. Davis did start issuing the licenses, and other probate judges began to fall in line.
Another probate judge, Steven Reed, didn’t feel pressured to follow Moore’s order. He began issuing marriage licenses immediately anyway, according to a different article on AL.com. In fact, Reed said the order was a desperate attempt on Moore’s part to defy the federal government, and nothing more.
Some probate judges decided to stop issuing marriage licenses altogether, according to The New York Times. Pike County put a notice up saying that marriage licenses and ceremonies were no longer available there. Washington County Probate Judge Nick Williams said that he would only issue licenses and perform ceremonies for couples in accordance with Alabama law and the U.S. Constitution (meaning, between one man and one woman).
The New York Times quoted Judge King as saying:
“With all due respect to Chief Justice Moore, he’s on the Alabama Supreme Court, and he’s not a federal judge.”
Moore’s opinion of his position as above federal law is astounding, really. How someone became a judge without understanding that state law cannot supersede federal law without a court striking down the federal law, defies understanding. Yet, here we are, with someone who’s putting all the officials beneath him in the impossible position that King and the other probate judges now find themselves.
What a predicament to be in. Roy Moore would likely have little sympathy for King and the rest of the probate judges, because he believes that striking down unconstitutional laws is the same as tyranny of the federal government. If anybody’s being tyrannical here, it’s Moore.