History repeating itself

Published 9:47 am Friday, February 13, 2015

In the 1950s and into the 1960s there was significant resistance in the Southern states to full integration on the basis of race. That resistance happened within Southern courthouses, police departments, churches, in businesses, and in the streets. But ultimately, discrimination surrendered much ground, not all, to the right to equal treatment under the law.

In the United States, that remains a work in progress today. Though great gains have been made in justice for African Americans, police treatment of young black men still remains more hostile than sensitive, drug laws still have imbalance in sentencing that harms African Americans, and pockets of hatred based upon nothing more than skin color still stain the nation.

Lester Maddox, Orval Faubus, and George Wallace, all devotees of racial enmity in the past, have all faded away as those wrong on the issues and acting against the tide of justice and history. These Southern governors who stood in defiance of the rule of law fought lost causes and our constitution prevailed in demanding an end to discrimination.

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Today America faces the challenging change of granting equality in marriage, and ending discrimination, to all who seek such a public contract. As this article is written 37 states now allow gay marriage, 52 percent of Americans support gay marriage, and the Supreme Court will hear the case for the constitutional right to such contract law this April.

Because this issue has religious elements, even a Supreme Court ruling will not fully resolve the issue. Particularly in the South, where a minority of people support the change, it can be expected that, like racial discrimination, the power of the past will influence slow progress toward the future.

But we need not repeat the mistakes of the 1960s in the South; the mistakes of racial hatred need not extend to tolerance in civil marriage resulting in civil disobedience and violations of law and the constitution should the Supreme Court grant gay marriage protected status.

And that takes us to Alabama Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore, who this week decided that law is what he says it to be, nothing more.

When a federal judge ruled that Alabama law could not stand against gay marriages in the state, those marriages could have begun to occur that very week. But Alabama appealed to the US Supreme Court, as was its procedural right, to stay that decision until the Supreme Court could conduct its review. The U.S. Supreme Court accepted the appeal and ruled that the stay would not be granted and gay marriages must be allowed in Alabama immediately.

Judge Moore then directed all county probate judges to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, violating federal law and the Supreme Court.

As of this writing there is chaos in Alabama courts as probate judges either follow Justice Moore’s directive or that of the federal court ruling.

The likely outcome of Judge Moore’s actions will be multiple lawsuits against the county probate judges, large legal expenses for the state of Alabama, and the inevitable surrender to law.

For Judge Moore, once terminated as a judge by an Alabama ethics commission, it is without justification to ignore a federal judges’ ruling and a U.S. Supreme Court order, and calls into questions his competence to serve within the justice system.

Judge Moore, and all who justify the freedom to discriminate, stand on the wrong side of history and equality. How many times must this lesson be learned?


Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.