By Robert Mann
Louisiana gay rights activists are understandably saddened that Alabama has achieved marriage equality while Louisiana remains one of the 13 states where same-sex marriage remains illegal. “What about Louisiana?” someone grumbled on Equality Louisiana’s Facebook page. “Why is our state always behind?”
I appreciate the frustration, but I’m grateful the Yellowhammer State went first. If Louisiana’s leaders pay attention to events in Alabama, the next week or two will be instructive when same-sex marriage is finally legalized here (most likely this summer).
The questions in Alabama are simple: After a federal judge has declared Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, will its leaders honor the rule of law or will they impose their religious beliefs on citizens in defiance of the Supreme Court? Do they believe human rights are a matter of prevailing public opinion and Biblical interpretation or do they recognize the primacy of the U.S. Constitution?
So far, the answers are mixed for a state that gave us momentous civil rights protests (Selma, Montgomery and Birmingham) and some of the nation’s most infamous racists (George Wallace and Bull Connor). Some Alabama officials have obeyed the federal order — a decision the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stay — and have awarded marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Earlier this past week, 19 of 67 counties were obeying the federal court.
Defiance of federal courts is Moore’s shtick. In 2003, his flouting of a federal court order prohibiting display of the Ten Commandments at the state’s judicial building got him bounced from the state’s Supreme Court. He clawed his way back onto the court in 2012 and is now itching for another dramatic showdown with the feds.
Moore may have most Alabamians with him on the question of whether the Bible sanctions gay marriage. That doesn’t mean those same citizens will ultimately affirm his brazen defiance of the rule of law. Any state wishing to attract jobs and tourists should probably be advertising its business climate and lovely beaches, not the bigotry and lawlessness of its chief justice and local officials.
That’s what Gov. Bobby Jindal, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, state legislators and parish clerks of court might consider before they imitate Moore. It’s what the various candidates for governor should ponder, as well, because the ultimate Supreme Court decision will come during this year’s race to replace Jindal.
It’s a safe bet that our gubernatorial debates will not feature high-minded discourse about the primacy of the Constitution. And Jindal, running for president, will demagogue this issue with relish (after all, we can’t let Alabama best us in football and interposition).
What those candidates and other public officials say and do will determine if Louisiana is viewed, like Alabama, as a state living in the pre-civil rights past or if it respects the law and resides in the 21st century.
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