Alabama Judges Forget How Law Works, Sorry Gay Couples
Remember when you and all your liberal commie friends were smoking crack rock together, on a Sunday no less, and played that game where you guessed which state would be the absolute dead last to legalize gay marriage?
“Utah!” your dealer Ramone said, and then Ramone was wrong.
“Florida!” declared your girlfriend, who was born Allison but at the time went by Riverwomb or something, and then she was wrong too.
“Alabama,” you resolutely insisted, and then you secretly despaired when you heard on Friday that gay marriage was legalized in Alabama but outwardly you were super fucking happy.
Well good news, you horrible miscreant! Alabama took one look at that federal court ruling and did the legal equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears and going “Nah nah nah boo boo, stick your head in doo doo.”
First, your Volpe would like to thank an old friend in Alabama politics who has been keeping him abreast of this situation as it develops. He's been a pretty amazing tipster and was a pretty badass bodyguard when your Volpe was a wee little virgin and got dragged to a leather bear bar for the first time by a go-go boy and a drag queen. Happy to report a relative minimum of Volpe groping that night!
Second, some context. On Friday, a ruling came down from United States District Judge Callie Granade, which is one letter from Grenade, which is probably going to be the protagonist's name in Grindhouse II: Electric Boogaloo. It's an appropriate name because, as you'll see, Callie Granade is a fucking badass. Alabama couple Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand, who were married in 2008 in California but have since moved to Alabama, came to Granade's court hoping that one of their party would be able to adopt her wife's son and thus officially make themselves a family. Trying to break up this perfectly happy family was Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, who by name alone is aiming for a coveted spot in Captain America's rogues gallery. Instead of just granting the right to adopt and telling AG Strange to piss off, Callie Granade determined that the Alabama constitution's ban on same-sex marriage was pretty unconstitutional according to the Constitution that actually matters, so she just stone cold threw out that part of the AL constitution, like yeah, no biggie, you wanna fight about it?
Turns out someone does! Even though Granade's decision makes sense to everyone who is even capable of reading The Law, Alabama's probate judges threw a legal hissy fit and just told people that they weren't going to obey the federal court ruling because the judge did not specifically say that probate judges had to obey the ruling. Did you ever annoy your sibling, dear Wonketteer, by putting your finger as close as possible to their face without actually making contact? Then when they yelled "MOM! S/he's touching me!" you could yell back "But I'm not touching youuuuuuu." You were following the letter of the law, but God almighty, were you violating the spirit. That is what the probate judges are doing. They are playing a legal game of I'm Not Touching You.
The Probate Judges Association clarified their decision via conference call to reporters, and you can read the transcript here. You can also download the audio file if you have a certain amount of self-loathing. The choice excerpt comes right around the 37:30 mark:
Question: 37:30 - Ruling says ban on marriage equality violates the 14 Amendment. How is refusing to issue a license not unconstitutional?
[Answer:] Ruling only applies to AG Strange, not Probate Judges.
Question: Ummm... if the role of Probate Judges is to issue marriage licenses & ruling says that not issuing them is unconstitutional, doesn't that at least tacitly mean that it's unconstitutional?
[Answer:] Courts resolve disputes between parties. Only unconstitutional to deny adoption of this child to this couple.
Did you catch that? What the
prostates probates are saying is that the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment has only been repealed for the three human beings involved in the legal dispute: Cari Searcy, Kimberly McKeand, and Attorney General Strange. These three are the only people in the state who are not bound by the amendment, but everyone else still is, because unequal application of the law is a thing apparently.
The AG and probate judges' attempts to stop the ruling have pushed Callie Granade to her limit, but rather than send them all envelopes full of glitter, Callie has decided to call their bluff. On Sunday, she issued a 14-day-stay on the ruling, pending the attorney general's attempt to appeal her decision. Of course, Granade makes it pretty clear that the attorney general has not shown that he is likely to succeed on appeal, as she outlines in the big bolded section titled The Attorney General Has Not Shown that He Is Likely to Succeed on Appeal. We only hope that the original version of that section ended with a doodle of Granade kicking Strange's legs out from under him, because that's the legal equivalent of what she just did.
While the State of Alabama is acting exactly as we all thought the Alabama government would, there is a bright spot of hope in all this muck. The Probate Judges Association's decision technically left open the option for probate judges to interpret the ruling as they see fit, with the obvious implication that they'll all choose to interpret against it. Montgomery Country Probate Judge Louis Reed, however, actually took a law course once, so he tweeted yesterday that the Montgomery Country Probate Office would be open bright and early Monday morning to marry any and all couples who walked through their doors, same-sex or otherwise. It seems Alabama's case of The Dumb is not terminal after all, though it's going to take an awful lot of legal chemotherapy to scrape it all out.