The Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBT hate group, has entered the already intense debate over same-sex marriages in Alabama by saying it will represent probate judges who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The news, which came late last week, is only the latest development in a series of tense events regarding same-sex marriage in the state that began on Jan. 23, when U.S. District Judge Callie Granade struck down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to extend the stay, and same-sex couples began applying for marriage licenses today.
“At this time, no Alabama probate judge is bound by Judge Granade’s order. This sole federal judge does not have jurisdiction to order all state probate judges to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” the Liberty Counsel wrote in a news release on Feb. 6.
Granade’s ruling has cleared the way for all judges who issue marriage licenses to start performing same-sex marriages, and because they are agents of the state, they have been ordered to comply with the Constitution, according to Harvard law professor Noah Feldman in a piece he wrote for Bloomberg News.
“They’re state functionaries,” Feldman wrote on the role of probate judges. “Refusal to comply with the federal court judgment would be illegitimate resistance — akin to the resistance of governor Orval Faubus in Little Rock,” who famously refused to comply with school desegregation.
Founded in 1989 and based in Orlando, Fla., the Liberty Counsel is well known for its strident anti-LGBT rhetoric. Mat Staver, the group’s president, co-founder and former dean at the Liberty University School of Law, has claimed that with full marriage equality, everyone will decide to be gay and society will “cease to exist.” (He also has linked homosexuality to rampant increases in disease, falsely linked homosexuality to pedophilia and claimed that homosexuality is the result of childhood sexual abuse.)
Such claims, naturally, have made him a darling of the anti-LGBT movement, which sides with Staver.
Matt Barber, the editor of the virulently anti-LGBT Barbwire.com, is a frequent host of the Liberty Counsel’s Faith and Freedom Radio. Barber has Tweeted that “Fake ‘gay marriage’ is fake ‘consummated’ through squalid and feculent abuse of the reproductive and digestive systems.” He has called same-sex parenting a form of child abuse, and aid that HIV is a punishment from God for homosexuality, stating that “it is never good, healthy, normal or natural.” He also expressed support for Russia’s draconian anti-LGBT laws, saying that he would like to see laws that “stop homosexual activist propaganda from corrupting children in our nation and we need to see that right here in the United States.”
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, meanwhile, is in the middle of the fray. He sent out a letter last Wednesday to Alabama governor Robert Bentley, demanding that state probate judges refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Moore has falsely claimed that state law trumps federal law, a belief he has held for years and that has gotten him in trouble in the past. He was removed from the bench by Alabama’s judicial ethics panel in 2003 for defying a federal order to remove a Ten Commandments monument he’d erected in the state court building. On Sunday, Moore ordered probate judges to refuse to marry same-sex couples.
A day earlier, though, a group calling itself Sanctity of Marriage Alabama rallied on the capitol steps in Montgomery. Among the featured speakers were theocrat John Eidsmoe, a former law school professor and chief counsel for the Foundation for Moral Law, an Alabama group founded by Roy Moore and currently run by his wife, Kayla Moore. Eidsmoe addressed a conference of the white nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens meeting in 2005, where he referred to Lester Maddox, the arch-segregationist former governor of Georgia as “Patriot of the Century.”
Already, Liberty Counsel is representing several probate judges, including Washington County Probate Judge Nick Williams, who has released a “declaration in support of marriage.”
In his declaration, Williams said he would “only issue marriage licenses and solemnize ceremonies consistent with Alabama law and the U.S. Constitution; namely, between one man and one woman only, so help me God.”