As of this morning, the status of marriage equality in Alabama is murkier than it should be. Some counties are honoring federal court rulings, some are not, and some are denying marriage licenses to every couple, regardless of sexual orientation. This dynamic is obviously unsustainable, though it may not last much longer.
The trouble, apparently, is confusion among local probate judges, who don’t know whether to follow the federal court rulings or an order from Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R), who instructed them to ignore the rulings. A federal judge set a hearing for tomorrow.
In the meantime, I was struck by an interview Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) did on CNN yesterday when asked about the mess in Alabama. Jindal is a staunch social conservative, and a likely presidential candidate eager to curry favor with the religious right, so the Alabama controversy poses a challenge: does he endorse the rule of law, even it leads to same-sex marriages?
Anchor Alisyn Camerota asked the governor, “What do you make of what’s going on” in Alabama? Jindal hedged, saying, “Let’s step back and remember how we got here,” and stressing his support for “traditional marriage.”
So, Camerota pressed further, asking, “But are you comfortable with local county officials defying a federal court order?” Jindal dodged again. The host asked once more, “Are the county officials supposed to be defying a federal court order? Are you comfortable with that?” Jindal eventually said:
“Well, look, we’re a nation of laws. That’s why I’ve said I want the Supreme Court not to overturn our law, and that’s why, ultimately, if the Supreme Court were to do this, I think the remedy would be a constitutional amendment in the Congress, to tell the courts you can’t overturn what the states have decided.“I think that there are a lot of folks who like to look at polls. I think voters, even if they disagree with a candidate on their views on marriage, will respect leaders that say, ‘Look, I’m going to take my positions. They’re not going to change with the polls. They’re not go to evolve because it’s politically correct.’”
That’s sort of an answer, though the governor couldn’t quite bring himself to say local officials have to honor federal court rulings, whether they like the rulings or not.
And that got me thinking about litmus tests.
Last week, after Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) made controversial comments about vaccines, almost immediately political leaders in both parties were asked to explain their own position on vaccinations. Within a day or two, every likely presidential candidate was on record, endorsing an anti-disease position.
It’d be nice if we saw similar scrutiny today about developments in Alabama. There are all kinds of political figures poised to launch presidential campaigns, and last week they told us what they think about vaccines. Maybe this week they can tell us whether they’re comfortable with Alabama counties ignoring the federal courts?
Bobby Jindal yesterday seemed reluctant to talk about it. What do Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Rick Perry think?
Postscript: President Obama, talking to BuzzFeed yesterday, was more than pleased to endorse marriage equality in Alabama.