It’s Roy Moore, who’s already nationally famous for his willingness to defy federal courts. He got elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2001, had a monument to the Ten Commandments installed on the courthouse grounds, then was tossed off the bench for refusing to comply when a federal judge ordered him to remove the monument to prevent a violation of the Establishment Clause. He got reelected chief justice a few years ago and now he’s going to defy the federal judiciary on another hot-button “values” issue, namely, last week’s ruling that the part of the Alabama constitution that bans gay marriage violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses. Will he be kicked off the bench again for this? If so, how many years will it be before he’s elected chief justice for the third time? The over/under is three.
Terrible, terrible news for a GOP presidential field that’s (mostly) desperate to duck this issue. Glorious, glorious news for content-hungry bloggers who know what sort of traffic a big intraparty food fight over SSM can produce.
Moore’s office released the three-page letter that was delivered to the governor this morning in response to a federal judge’s ruling Friday striking down the ban.
“As Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, I will continue to recognize the Alabama Constitution and the will of the people overwhelmingly expressed in the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment,” Moore wrote.
“I ask you to continue to uphold and support the Alabama Constitution with respect to marriage, both for the welfare of this state and for our posterity,” Moore continued at the end of the letter. “Be advised that I stand with you to stop judicial tyranny and any unlawful opinions issued without constitutional authority.”…
“As you know, nothing in the United States Constitution grants the federal government the authority to redefine the institution of marriage,” Moore wrote.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley responded with his own statement, acknowledging that “[a]s governor, I must uphold the Constitution” but adding that “[t]he Federal government must not infringe on the rights of states.” If all of this sounds familiar, it should: It’s the same basic nullification idea that Mike Huckabee was pushing last week when he insisted that SCOTUS can’t legalize gay marriage on its own. The Court needs the cooperation of state legislatures, he claimed, which is … just not correct but makes for a nifty talking point for a guy who wants to show social conservatives that he’s willing to do things to defend traditional marriage that the other so-called social cons in the field are not. Here’s what he said this weekend in Iowa when asked about that again:
“There’s no such thing in the Constitution as judicial supremacy where the courts make a ruling and it becomes quote ‘the law of the land,’” he said before a speech to conservatives here Saturday, in remarks that drew criticism. “A great example of this is the 1857 Dred Scott decision, in which the Supreme Court in one of its most horrendous decisions … said that people who are black aren’t fully human. Now Abraham Lincoln said he wasn’t going to fully abide by that. Nobody argues that Abraham Lincoln should have abided by the Dred Scott decision. We recognize that he had the courage to realize that he didn’t have to enforce something that was morally wrong.”
Democrats will have a lot of fun with that slavery analogy down the road. But anyway — here’s Moore doing exactly what Huckabee thinks socially conservative state employees should do in the name of morality. I’m dying to see a poll on this topic, just to see how right or wrong my hunch is about how Americans will react. You know what the polls on legalizing gay marriage look like; there’s now a reliable majority in favor, although that majority seems to be capped at around 58 or 59 percent. My hunch is that public opinion on state officers defying federal court rulings will run much higher, as not only will you pick up all of the pro-SSM adults but you’ll pick up a chunk of anti-SSMers who see chaos in the idea of government officials picking and choosing which court rulings to obey. (Imagine if SCOTUS’s ruling on ObamaCare’s mandate came out the other way in 2012 and blue states decided to enforce the federal individual mandate anyway, as a procedural necessity towards the “moral” goal of universal health care.) If I’m right then Moore’s defiance is a political nightmare looming for GOP presidential candidates: Some Republican primary voters will support him as a lonely traditionalist bulwark against judicial tyranny but most of the public will oppose him for refusing to follow the constitutional order imposed by the Supremacy Clause. Republican candidates will have the media gleefully amplifying lefty attacks that, a la the 1950s, once again we have officials in the deep south refusing to implement antidiscrimination rulings by the federal bench. (The fact that this is playing out in Alabama portends lots of George Wallace references, most of which will omit his party affiliation of course.) On the other hand, they’ll have Mike Huckabee amplifying Moore’s position, wondering aloud just how much we can trust Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio if they’re willing to condone left-wing morals imposed by judicial diktat. It’s a clusterfark in the making.
Here’s Huckabee tackling this subject on “Meet the Press” a few days ago. Today he told a radio host during an interview that it’s “trashy” for women to use profanity in the workplace, which should make for a nice week-long media digression next summer if he ends up as the nominee.