Like mentor, like protégé.
Newly reelected Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker raised a few eyebrows even in this conservative state with his release last week of a radio campaign advertisement in which he said “liberal activist judges” like U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips should be listed with Al-Qaeda among America’s biggest security threats.
Why? Because of her September ruling that the U.S. military’s so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy is unconstitutional, which, if it survives legal challenges, would mean that gays could serve openly in the armed forces. (The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an indefinite stay of Phillips’ ruling on Nov. 1).
Parker’s disdain for so-called “liberal” judges is widely known. [See this Parker advertisement.] But his jaw-dropping claim that allowing gays to serve openly in the military rivals the danger of an international terrorist organization seemed to stretch hyperbole itself to the limit. It does, however, align with the dire predictions of numerous right-wing anti-gay organizations that lifting the ban on gays would lead to all manner of disruption for the military – a precipitous fall in reenlistments, a surge in gay attacks on straight service members, the widespread dismissal of chaplains who consider homosexuality sinful, even cross-dressing soldiers. This, the theory holds, would result in a decimated U.S. fighting capability, leaving the nation critically vulnerable to military defeat.
That nothing remotely of the sort has occurred in any of the 36 nations – including Canada, Great Britain, Australia and Israel – that allow gays to serve openly in the military is worth noting. Also of note are some of the nations that continue, along with the United States, to ban gays from military service, Cuba, North Korea and Iran among them.
But in Alabama, Parker’s views played well. He was easily reelected on Tuesday.
Parker’s views aren’t so surprising when one considers similarly homophobic pronouncements of his political mentor, ousted former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.
In 2002, Moore wrote a lengthy concurrence in a custody case that was decided against a lesbian mother for reasons that had nothing to do with her orientation. [See this story.] Moore agreed she should have lost the appeal – in his case, simply because she was gay. “I write specially to state that the homosexual conduct of a parent … creates a strong presumption of unfitness that alone is sufficient justification for denying that parent custody of his or her own children or prohibiting the adoption of the children of others,” Moore wrote.
Homosexuality, Moore declared, is “abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature.” He continued, “[t]he State carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this [homosexual] lifestyle, not to encourage a criminal lifestyle.”
He concluded, “Homosexual conduct by its very nature is immoral, and its consequences are inherently destructive to the natural order of society. Any person who engages in such conduct is presumptively unfit to have custody of minor children under the established laws of this State.”
Moore was removed from office after defying federal court orders to remove a 2-1/2 ton monument displaying the Ten Commandments he installed in the rotunda of that state’s judicial building (The Southern Poverty Law Center was involved in the civil suit against Moore that alleged that his actions vis-à-vis the monument violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S Constitution and the principle of separation of church and state). But Parker, who had been Moore’s spokesman and legal advisor, easily won Moore’s vacated seat in 2004. His views mimic those of his mentor – despising “liberal judges” who are “trying to take God out of public life” and ardently opposing gay marriage. Being linked at the time to known racist and neo-Confederate hate groups didn’t dampen Parker’s appeal (see Honoring the Confederacy).
Parker has not been shy about declaring his view that God’s law supersedes the authority of secular government – a view he and others use to militate against legalized gay rights in any form. Parker was the only dissenter in a case in which the Alabama Supreme Court awarded custody of a child to its maternal grandparents rather than its father, who had made little effort to parent the child during its first four years of life. Although there was no issue of homosexuality in that case, Parker in his dissent criticized a West Virginia Supreme Court ruling that awarded a child’s custody to the lesbian partner of the child’s deceased mother rather than the child’s natural grandparents because “inalienable rights, including parental rights, are given by God, who as the Creator determines their nature and limits.”
Gays already serve in the U.S. military – probably thousands in a military force numbering over two million members – but under DADT, they can be discharged if their orientation becomes known. President Obama supports ending the ban, but prefers that Congress rewrite the policy.