Obama: SCOTUS ‘about to make a shift’ on marriage equality

President Obama

President Barack Obama

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said Monday, Feb. 9, that seven of his eight colleages on the nation’s highest court erred on Monday when they chose not to extend the stay on a trial court ruling striking down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage, since the Supreme Court has yet to rule on four marriage equality cases it has agreed to hear. Justice Thomas also indicated that in refusing to extend the stay, the justices gave a pretty clear indication just how they rule in those cases when the time comes.

On Tuesday, Feb. 10, President Barack Obama told BuzzFeed News that he, too, believes the Supreme Court’s direction on marriage equality is pretty obvious.

“My sense is that the Supreme Court is about to make a shift, one that I welcome, which is to recognize that — having hit a critical mass of states that have recognized same-sex marriage — it doesn’t make sense for us to now have this patchwork system,” Obama told BuzzFeed. “It’s time to recognize that under the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution, same-sex couples should have the same rights as anybody else.”

Alabama state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has basically told probate judges (the ones in Alabama who issue marriage licenses) not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because they don’t have to listen to the U.S. Supreme Court because he is against marriage equality.

But President Obama noted that Moore is just going to have to face facts and get out of the way. “When federal law is in conflict with state law, federal law wins out,” the president said.

The president also took the opportunity of the BuzzFeed  interview to suggest that his former advisor, David Axelrod, is “mixing up” his personal feelings with his position on the issue of same-sex marriage in Axelrod’s recently published book, in which Axelrod says that Obama supported same-sex marriage long before making his support public in May 2012, just before he was elected to his second term, but that Obama lied about his feelings on marriage equality due to political concerns.

Obama told BuzzFeed, “I always felt that same-sex couples should be able to enjoy the same rights, legally, as anybody else, and so it was frustrating to me not to, I think, be able to square that with what were a whole bunch of religious sensitivities out there. So my thinking at the time was that civil unions — which I always supported — was a sufficient way of squaring the circle.”

—  Tammye Nash

Roy Moore: Marriage equality will lead to parents marrying their children


“I don’t want to. You can’t make me. So nyah-nyah-nyah.”

That’s what Alabama state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore told the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court and a bunch of same-sex couples in Alabama who just wanted to get married.

Maybe I paraphrased a little bit. But that’s basically the gist of Moore’s insistence that he does not have to abide by the mandates of the federal courts, especially when it comes to legally recognizing same-sex marriage.

And on Monday, Feb. 9, Moore explained to ABC News that he has to stop same-sex marriage, because if loving, committed adult couples of the same gender are allowed to legally marry, then all hell is gonna break loose and then “men and their daughters or women and their sons” would be insisting they be allowed to get married too. (Watch the video above.)

As of 11 a.m. my time on Tuesday, Feb. 10, probate judges in 20 Alabama counties were abiding by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to extend a stay of a lower court order striking down the Alabama marriage ban, while the other 47 were participating in Moore’s temper tantrum and refusing to issue the licenses, according to Freedom to Marry.

U.S. District Court Judge Ginny Granade issued two separate rulings in two separate marriage equality cases last month — on Jan. 23 and Jan. 26 — that struck down Alabama’s ban on legal recognition of same-sex marriage. She issued a stay, that was set to expire this past Monday, Feb. 9. The state appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals which refused to extend the stay. The state then asked the U.S. Supreme Court to extend the stay, and SCOTUS  also refused. (The ruling there was 7-2).

(Just to jog your memory, Moore is the guy who was kicked out of the Alabama Chief Justice’s seat back in 2003 when he kicked and screamed and held his breath and refused to remove a 10 Commandments monument — that he had commissioned and had installed — from the state’s Supreme Court building. The good people then re-elected him as chief justice in 2012 — after his two failed bids to become governor and a presidential bid that ended before it started.)

Anyway, Sunday night, Feb. 8, after the 11th Circuit Court refused to extend the stay, Moore ordered the probate judges in the state’s 67 counties not to issue licenses to same-sex couples. His reasoning was that since he was the only person who could order the state’s probate judges to issue marriage licenses, and since he was not named in the lawsuit, the federal court’s ruling does not apply to him.

Moore told WND Faith website on Monday, Feb. 9, he’s not backing away from the state court versus federal court fight over marriage, because he believes, constitutionally, the states are allowed to define the institution.

And it will remain that way unless the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling on the merits, he contends.

But from what U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said on Monday, Feb. 9, in the statement he wrote noting his dissent in the court’s 7-1 decision not to stay Granade’s ruling in Alabama, Moore is just (partially) delaying the inevitable.

Thomas and Antonin Scalia were the two justices who wanted the stay extended. In his dissent, Thomas said that the ruling “may well be seen as a signal of the court’s intended resolution” on the four marriage equality cases justices agreed to hear on appeal out of the Sixth Circuit. He argued that the court’s normal practice would have been to put the Alabama case on hold until it had decided the cases it has agreed to hear.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments on the four cases in April, and likely issue a ruling sometime in June.

The Supreme Court last October refused to hear appeals on marriage equality cases in other federal appellate circuits, but all of those trial and appellate courts had ruled in favor of equality. SCOTUS also refused in to extend the stay on a Florida trial court judge’s ruling in favor of equality, allowing same-sex marriages to begin in that state on Jan. 5. But that was before the court agreed to hear appeals of the four cases from the Sixth Circuit Court, the only federal appellate court to rule against marriage equality since the Supreme Court’s June 2013 ruling that struck down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

—  Tammye Nash

Supreme Court rules on the side of LGBT rights in Washington state case

Clarence Thomas
Justice Clarence Thomas

As the Supreme Court session comes to a close, a number of decisions have been handed down this week. With little fanfare, the court ruled for LGBT rights groups in an 8-1 decision. Only Clarence Thomas voted against, according to the Washington Post.

The Supreme Court ruled that people who sign petitions calling for public votes do not have a right to have their names shielded.

The case involved a Washington state petition to repeal an LGBT domestic partnership law. The anti-marriage group Protect Marriage Washington sued to keep the names of people who signed their petitions secret fearing harassment.

What was surprising about the ruling against the right-wing organization is that the ruling and supporting opinions came from the Court’s own right wing.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion. He said disclosure of names is necessary to ensure their authenticity.

The group argued that petitioners have a right to free speech without fear of harassment. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that laws are in place to prevent reprisals.

The Supreme Court blocked the release of names until their decision. Names are unlikely to be released until the case goes back to lower courts for review.

In the election, Protect Marriage Washington lost by a vote of 53 percent to 46 percent. Same-sex domestic partnerships are the equivalent of marriage in Washington state law.

Fewer than half of states allow citizens to put initiatives on the ballot through petitions. Texas is not one of them.

—  David Taffet