Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Chief Justice Roy Moore and the rising tide

''During some of my most trying times I always returned to the ring.''-Justice Roy Moore

When I met Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore last year in St. Louis, he seemed to be a man whose time in the spotlight had gone by. He had fought his fight and finished most of what he had wanted to do.
At the time, the controversy around the judge seemed over. In 2003 he was removed from being the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama after hearings, due to his failure to remove a massive monument from the courthouse with the ten commandments on it. But he was reelected nine years later, the ultimate statement of faith from the people of his state that they were still with him. Moore is too old to legally run again, and I expected that he would run out this final term with a good record, but without fireworks.
I was wrong. The 68 year old justice has one last fight to wage, this one on same-sex-marriage.
Moore is a man who has fought many battles in his time. An officer in Vietnam, he has been called “Captain America.” (No, Moore never dressed like him.) He says that in the army, he was so strict on his men he was afraid they were going to kill him, and indeed, threats were made. Captain Moore got out of the army in 1974 with his soul still in his body, but he was not done fighting, and after pursuing an education in law, he began moving around.
He was, for one year, a professional kickboxer. He was also a cowboy in Australia for a time. Moore kept bouncing around the planet, doing this and that, like a Charles Dickens' character. In the 80s, he moved back to the US to get into politics. And that brings us up to date.
Roy Moore refuses to give out marriage licenses for same-sex-couples, and orders all the judges under his authority to do likewise. The Federal Judge, Callie Granade struck down an amendment to the state constitution of Alabama, saying it goes against the US Constitution. The amendment had forbidden same-sex-marriage in the state. With the amendment struck down, Moore still ordered the probate judges not to do issue lisences. THe majority have now deserted him, but some remain on his side.
Moore says that the definition of marriage is between one man and women, and that federal judges cannot change the definition just because they want to. Even the New York Times, after calling Moore a bigot, said he was right.
And Moore is right, at least here. Marriage has always, in Western Culture, been defined as between one man and one woman. There is no arguing that. It simply cannot be denied. Even such eminent magazines as Time would have and did agree not so long ago. And we can plainly see, especially in the great American Comedy, The Andy Griffith Show, what the last generation thought of marriage. Andy telling Opie that he should not hate women, because when Opie wants to get married, if he leaves out women, well, that sort of empties the field.

The TImes said the Supreme Court should not change the definition, even if they want to change the definition to something else. If they must, they can use a new word, but not redefine the old one.
Justice Granade, the one who ruled Alabama
must allow same-sex marriage.
Moore has been called all sorts of names, bigot among them, but one thing that he has not been called, and one he should be, is brave. He is a brave man, and stands for what he believes. Like the kickboxer in the ring, he still will not throw in the towel.
Yes, it may be true, Moore is "on the wrong side of history," that is to say, he will very probably lose his fight with the powers that be. But at least it can be said that Moore is what many people always dream of-someone who represents his people (more than 7 out of 10 Alabamans do not want same-sex-marriage)-but he also says what he believes, sticks to it, and does not double talk.
He does not hate gays; he said in a recent interview that he has gay friends. But he does not believe the courts have any right to redefine marriage. And he also says Justice Granade is not over him, (strictly speaking, she might not be) and so has no right to order him. The Supreme Court has not yet ruled, so Moore’s ultimate fate still hangs in the balance.
Love him or hate him, there are many things that could be said about Moore. But it cannot be said that he is faking it. Pandering to voters, or trying to make his record look good. From his point of view he is simply an old style patriot, standing up to his state’s motto: “We dare defend our rights.”

Andrew C. Abbott

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