Steve Chapman: Marriage and the Constitution in Alabama

Taking refuge in bald literalism


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Those who oppose laws against same-sex marriage compare them to the bans on interracial marriage that many states once had. Some legal thinkers cite the 1967 Supreme Court decision overturning such laws to argue for the right of gays to wed. Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, however, thinks that decision actually justifies the ban.

In his letter to state probate judges forbidding them from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples—as mandated by a federal court—Moore quoted the 1967 decision, which said "the freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men and women." He then declared, "No court or other human authority should pretend to redefine that right."

He has a gift for irony, though not of the intentional sort, writes Steve Chapman.