Alabama Supreme Court Rejects U. S. Supreme Court’s Marriage Opinion

Mar 4, 2016

Montgomery, AL – Today, in a 170-page ruling, the Alabama Supreme Court rejected the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage opinion by issuing its own Judgment in favor of Liberty Counsel’s Petition for Mandamus. In the petition, Liberty Counsel demanded on behalf of its Alabama clients – Alabama Policy Institute (“API”) and Alabama Citizens Action Program (“ALCAP”) – that the state’s probate judges obey Alabama’s Constitution and laws. On March 4, 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered the probate judges to immediately cease issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

“The ruling last year by the Alabama Supreme Court was historic, and is one of the most researched and well-reasoned opinions on marriage to be issued by any court in the country. Today’s opinion by the Alabama Supreme Court calling the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage opinion ‘illegitimate’ will be remembered in history like the ‘shot heard around the world,’” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.

Following the June 26, 2015, U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 Obergefell opinion on marriage, the Alabama Supreme Court requested the parties to file additional briefs. Today, the Alabama Supreme Court issued its final Judgment, thus affirming and implementing its March 4, 2015 opinion.

“The Alabama Supreme Court has openly rejected the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 marriage opinion, labeling it ‘illegitimate’ and without legal or precedential authority. This is a clear victory for the rule of law and an historic decision by the Alabama Supreme Court. The Judgement makes permanent the Alabama Supreme Court’s order prohibiting probate judges from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Alabama Supreme Court has rejected the illegitimate opinion of five lawyers on the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Staver.

Chief Justice Roy Moore and Justice Tom Parker issued concurring opinions openly criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court marriage opinion. Using Supreme Court Chief Justice John Robert’s term of “five lawyers” when referring to the Supreme Court Obergefell opinion, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore wrote a blistering 105-page concurring opinion:  

  • Today this Court by order dismisses all pending motions and petitions and issues the certificate of judgment in this case. That action does not disturb the existing March orders in this case or the Court's holding therein that the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, art. I, § 36.03, Ala. Const. 1901, and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act, § 30-1-9, Ala. Code 1975, are constitutional. Therefore, and for the reasons stated below, I concur with the order. 
  • I agree with the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts, and with Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito, that the majority opinion in Obergefell has no basis in the law, history, or tradition of this country. Obergefell is an unconstitutional exercise of judicial authority that usurps the legislative prerogative of the states to regulate their own domestic policy. Additionally, Obergefell seriously jeopardizes the religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  
  • Based upon arguments of “love,” “commitment,” and “equal dignity” for same-sex couples, five lawyers, as Chief Justice Roberts so aptly describes the Obergefell majority, have declared a new social policy for the entire country. As the Chief Justice and Associate Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito eloquently and accurately demonstrate in their dissents, the majority opinion in Obergefell is an act of raw power with no ascertainable foundation in the Constitution itself. The majority presumed to legislate for the entire country under the guise of interpreting the Constitution.  
  • The Obergefell majority presumes to amend the United States Constitution to create a right stated nowhere therein. That is a lawless act.  
  • I submit that our Founders knew a lot more about freedom than [Justice Kennedy’s opinion] indicates. They secured the freedoms we enjoy, not in judicial decrees of newly discovered rights, but in the Constitution and amendments thereto. That a majority of the Court may identify an “injustice” that merits constitutional correction does not dispense with the means the Constitution has provided in Article V for its own amendment.  
  • Although the Court could suggest that the Constitution would benefit from a particular amendment, the Court does not possess the authority to insert the amendment into the Constitution by the vehicle of a Court opinion and then to demand compliance with it.  
  • Novel departures from the text of the Constitution by the Court are customarily accompanied by pretentious language employed to conceal the illegitimacy of its actions. Justice Scalia in his Obergefell dissent refers to this abandonment of “disciplined legal reasoning” as a descent into “the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”  
  • Some of the ostentatious phrases used in the majority opinion [are] more suitable to a romance novel.  
  • The majority seeks to invoke the grief, sorrow, and compassion associated with a Greek tragedy. Riding a tidal wave of emotion, the ensuing tears and pathos then suffice to fertilize a new constitutional right nowhere mentioned in the Constitution itself.  
  • Abandoning the role of interpreting the written Constitution, the majority has instead decided to become the supposed “voice” of the people, discerning the people's sentiments and updating the document accordingly. The function of keeping the Constitution up with the times, however, has not been delegated to the Court -- or to Congress or the President; that function is reserved to the states under Article V.  
  • Historically, consummation of a marriage always involved an act of sexual intimacy that was dignified in the eyes of the law. An act of sexual intimacy between two men or two women, by contrast, was considered “an infamous crime against nature” and a “disgrace to human nature.” Homosexuals who seek the dignity of marriage must first forsake the sexual habits that disqualify them from admission to that hallowed institution. Surely more dignity attaches to participation in a fundamental institution on the terms it prescribes than to an attempt to wrest its definition to serve inordinate lusts that demean its historic dignity.  
  • A “disgrace to human nature” cannot be cured by stripping the institution of holy matrimony of its inherent dignity and redefining it to give social approval to behaviors unsuited to its high station. Sodomy has never been and never will be an act by which a marriage can be consummated.  
  • Government exists to secure that right. Because liberty is a gift of God, it must be exercised in conformity with the laws of nature and of nature’s God.  
  • Liberty in the American system of government is not the right to define one's own reality in defiance of the Creator. . . . But the human being, as a dependent creature, is not at liberty to redefine reality; instead, as the Declaration of Independence states, a human being is bound to recognize that the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are endowed by God. Those rights are not subject to a redefinition that rejects the natural order God has created.  
  • Citing Genesis 2:24 -- The Obergefell majority's false definition of marriage arises, in great part, from its false definition of liberty. Separating man from his Creator, the majority plunges the human soul into a wasteland of meaninglessness where every man defines his own anarchic reality. In that godless world nothing has meaning or consequence except as the human being desires. Man then becomes the creator of his own reality rather than a subject of the Creator of the Declaration.  
  • This false notion of liberty, which permeates the majority opinion in Obergefell, is the ultimate fallacy upon which it rests. In a world with God left out, the moral boundaries of Scripture disappear, and man's corrupt desires are given full rein. The end of this experiment in anarchic liberty is yet to be seen. The great sufferers will be the children -- deprived of either a paternal or a maternal presence -- who are raised in unnatural families that contradict the created order.  
  • The invocation of “equal dignity” to justify the invention of a heretofore unknown constitutional right is just another judicial mantra to rationalize the invalidation of state laws that offend the policy preferences of a five-person majority.  
  • The majority opinion in Obergefell represents the culmination of a change in our form of government from one of three separate-but-equal branches to one in which the judicial branch now exercises the power of the legislative branch.  
  • The Obergefell majority, presuming to know better than the people themselves how to order the fundamental domestic institution of society, has usurped the legislative prerogatives of the people contrary to the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.  
  • In short, the majority acts not as a court of law but as a band of social revolutionaries. The Chief Justice, amazed at this presumption, exclaims: “Just who do we think we are?”  
  • The Chief Justice's quotation of Justice Curtis's Dred Scott dissent merits serious consideration. If acquiescence to Obergefell indicates that “we have no longer a Constitution,” then the legitimacy of Obergefell is subject to grave doubt. If five Justices of the Supreme Court may at will redefine the Constitution according to their own policy preferences, the mechanism of judicial review, designed originally to protect the rights of the people from runaway legislatures, has morphed into the right of five lawyers to rule the people without their consent.  
  • Indeed, as the Chief Justice warns, the plenary power the majority asserts to redefine the fundamental institutions of society offers no assurance that it will not give birth to yet further attacks on the social order.  
  • If, as the Chief Justice asserts, the opinion of the majority is not based on the Constitution, do state judges have any obligation to obey that ruling? Does not their first duty lie to the Constitution?  
  • The right to change the form of government in this country belongs to the people themselves through the amendment process, not to judicial oligarchs.  
  • These metaphors identify the essence of the majority's actions: an illegal displacement and usurpation of the democratic process. Chief Justice Roberts accuses the majority of imposing “naked policy preferences” that have “no basis in the Constitution.” Accordingly, the majority's “extravagant conception of judicial supremacy” is “dangerous for the rule of law.” The unmistakable theme that emerges from these critiques is lawlessness.  
  • Justice Scalia also emphasizes the revolutionary character of the majority's assault on the social order -- elevating the “crime against nature” into the equivalent of holy matrimony. This decision, “unabashedly not based on law,” represents a “social upheaval” and a “judicial Putsch.” Justice Alito sounds the same themes. The Court has not unwittingly tread into forbidden territory; instead, it has acted “far beyond the outer reaches” of its authority, boldly trampling the right of the people “to control their own destiny.”  
  • For the last 50 years, the Supreme Court has consistently misused the Fourteenth Amendment to destroy state laws that protect the marital relation and its offspring. Obergefell is the latest fruit of this corrupt tree (refer to Matthew 7:17-18).  
  • Truly, the less basis the majority has for its innovations upon the Constitution, the grander is the language employed to justify them, as if high-blown rhetoric could compensate for the absence of constitutional substance.  
  • Obergefell is but the latest example of the Court's creation of constitutional rights out of thin air in service of the immorality of the sexual revolution. Like Roe, Obergefell is no more than “an exercise of raw judicial power ... an improvident and extravagant exercise of the power of judicial review that the Constitution extends to this Court.”  
  • Amendments to the Constitution are the business of the people pursuant to Article V; they are not the business of the Court under Article III. Truth may not always be clearly seen, but the majority's reasoning should not blind us to the reality that the Court seems determined to alter this nation's organic law.  
  • The definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman has existed for millennia and has never been considered an “ill tendency.” By contrast, the Court's attempt to redefine marriage is “a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty.”  
  • The Obergefell majority, conspicuously overlooking the “essential and historic significance” of the connection between religious liberty and “supreme allegiance to the will of God,” failed to appreciate the seriousness of imposing a new sexual-revolution mandate that requires Alabama public officials to disobey the will of God.  
  • Religious liberty, however, is about more than just “teaching” and “advocating” views of marriage. The majority condescendingly approves religious speech against same-sex marriage but not religious practice in conformity with those beliefs. As Chief Justice Roberts states in his dissent: “The First Amendment guarantees ... the freedom to 'exercise' religion. Ominously, this is not a word the majority uses.”  
  • Obergefell promises to breach the legal protections that have shielded believers from participating in acts hostile to their faith. As Chief Justice Roberts points out, the Obergefell majority piously declaims that people of faith may believe what they want and seek to persuade others, but it says nary a word about them practicing or exercising their faith as the Free Exercise Clause provides.  
  • The Free Exercise Clause, an express constitutional provision, logically takes precedence over a pretended constitutional right formulated from whole cloth by “five lawyers.”  
  • Foreseeing the dire consequences for religious freedom in the principle that same-sex marriage must be given equal stature with holy matrimony and foreseeing the inevitable pressure to compel religious institutions, businesses, and practitioners of professions to conform to that unreality, it would be imprudent to wait for the onset of these persecutions, to stand idle until Obergefell “usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents.” Rather “the axe [must be] laid unto the root of the trees,” (refer to Matthew 3:10) and the consequence avoided by denying the principle. To allow a simple majority of the United States Supreme Court to “create” a constitutional right that destroys the religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment violates not only common sense but also our duty to the Constitution.  
  • I disagree with the conclusion that the “rule of law” requires judges to follow as the “law of the land” a precedent that is “a super-legislative imposition,” “a mockery,” “a legal fiction,” and “an utter travesty.”  
  • By the plain language of Article VI, state judges are bound to obedience to the Constitution, laws made in pursuance thereof, and treaties made under the authority of the United States, not to the opinions of the United States Supreme Court.  
  • Thus, in the plainest terms and employing emphasis, Hamilton declared that acts of the federal government that invade the reserved rights of the states are “acts of usurpation” that deserve to be treated as such. Such acts “would not be the supreme law of the land, but an usurpation of power not granted by the Constitution.”  
  • The Supremacy Clause, quite obviously, by this chain of reasoning, does not give the United States Supreme Court or any other agency of the federal government the authority to make its every declaration by that very fact the supreme law of the land. If the Court's edicts do not arise from powers delegated to the federal government in the Constitution, they are to be treated not as the supreme law of the land but as mere usurpation.  
  • Thus, if precedents are “manifestly absurd or unjust,” “contrary to reason,” or “contrary to the divine law,” they are not to be followed.  
  • Applying Blackstone's analysis, which is compatible with that of Hamilton, one must conclude that the Obergefell opinion is manifestly absurd and unjust, as demonstrated convincingly by the four dissenting Justices in Obergefell and the writings of two Justices of the Louisiana Supreme Court in Costanza. Basing its opinion upon a supposed fundamental right that has no history or tradition in our country, the opinion of the Obergefell majority is “contrary to reason” as well as “contrary to the divine law.”  
  • The Obergefell opinion, being manifestly absurd and unjust and contrary to reason and divine law, is not entitled to precedential value.  
  • If, as an individual who is sworn to uphold and support the United States Constitution, I were to place a court opinion that manifestly and palpably violates the United States Constitution above my loyalty to that Constitution, I would betray my oath and blatantly disregard the Constitution I am sworn to uphold. Acquiescence on my part to acts of “palpable illegality” would be an admission that we are governed by the rule of man and not by the rule of law. Simply put, the Justices of the Supreme Court, like every American soldier, are under the Constitution, not above it.  
  • The general principle of blind adherence to United States Supreme Court opinions as “the law of the land” is a dangerous fallacy that is inconsistent with the United States Constitution. Labeling such opinions as “the rule of law” confuses the law itself -- the Constitution -- with an opinion that purports to interpret that document.  
  • Opinions of the Supreme Court that interpret the Constitution are, as Lincoln said, “entitled to very high respect and consideration,” but only insofar as they are faithful to that document. In a case like Obergefell, the “evil effects” Lincoln described should be confined to the unfortunate defendants in that case. We must protect the institution of marriage from judicial subversion and maintain loyalty to the principles upon which our nation was founded.
  • Finally, we should reject the conversion of our republican form of government into an aristocracy of nine lawyers.  
  • Some contend, however, that Obergefell, by its mere existence, abrogates the March 2015 orders in this case. Those orders, of course, were not the subject of review in Obergefell 
  • The Court had no jurisdiction to order nonparties to Obergefell to obey its judgment for they have not had an opportunity to appear and defend.  
  • No Alabama probate judges were parties to Obergefell. Neither were they officers, agents, or servants of any of the defendants in those cases, or in active concert or participation with any of them. The Obergefell defendants were state officials in the four states in the jurisdiction of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, namely Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. Needless to say, Alabama probate judges were not agents, servants, or employees of any of those state officials. Nor were they in “active concert or participation” with any of them. Thus, the judgment in Obergefell that reversed the Sixth Circuit's judgment does not constitute an order to Alabama probate judges.  
  • The dissents of Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Scalia, Justice Thomas, and Justice Alito provide ample justification to refuse to recognize Obergefell as a legitimate judicial judgment. Obergefell constitutes an unlawful purported amendment of the Constitution by a judicial body that possesses no such authority. As Chief Justice Roberts stated: “The right [Obergefell] announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court's precedent.”  
  • Rather than limiting themselves to the judicial function of applying existing law to the facts and parties before them, the Obergefell majority violated “the metes and bounds which separate each department of power” by purporting to rewrite the marriage laws of the several states to conform to their own view of marriage.  
  • Even more injurious to the rule of law, the Obergefell majority “overleap[ed] the great Barrier which defends the rights of the people” as expressed in the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The majority thus has jeopardized the freedom to worship God according to the dictates of conscience and the right to acknowledge God as the author and guarantor of true liberty.  
  • By transgressing “the metes and bounds which separate each department of power” and “overleap[ing] the great Barrier” which protects the rights of conscience, the Obergefell majority “exceed[s] the commission from which they derive their authority” and are “tyrants.” By submitting to that illegitimate authority, the people, as Madison stated, become slaves. Free government, rather than being preserved, is destroyed.  
  • Obergefell is completely without constitutional authority, a usurpation of state sovereignty, and an effort to impose the will of “five lawyers,” . . . on the people of this country.  
  • In my legal opinion, Obergefell, like Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade that preceded it, is an immoral, unconstitutional, and tyrannical opinion. Its consequences for our society will be devastating, and its elevation of immorality to a special “right” enforced through civil penalties will be completely destructive of our religious liberty.  
  • Obergefell contradicts “the laws of nature and of nature's God” that were invoked in the organic law upon which our country is founded. To invariably equate a Supreme Court decision that clearly contradicts the Constitution with “the rule of law” is to elevate the Supreme Court above the Constitution and to subject the American people to an autocracy foreign to our form of government. Supreme Court Justices are also subject to the Constitution. When “that eminent tribunal” unquestionably violates the limitations set forth in that document, lesser officials -- equally bound by oath to the Constitution -- have a duty to recognize that fact or become guilty of the same transgression.  

In a separate concurring opinion, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Parker wrote:  

  • Obergefell conclusively demonstrates that the rule of law is dead.”
  • Obergefell … trampled into the dust the last vestiges of the legitimacy of the United States Supreme Court.”
  • Obergefell is not based on legal reasoning, history, tradition, the Court’s own rules, or the rule of law, but upon the empathetic feelings of the ‘five lawyers’ in the majority.”
  • “[The Supreme Court] majority illegitimately imposed its will upon the American people. We now appear to be a government not of laws, but of ‘five lawyers.’”
  • Obergefell is ‘no judicial act at all’ because it is ‘without principled justification.’”
  • Obergefell is without legitimacy.”
  • “This is not the rule of law, this is despotism and tyranny.”
  • “Despotism and tyranny were evils identified in the Declaration of Independence as necessitating the break with King George and Great Britain.”
  • Obergefell is the latest example of judicial despotism.”
  •  “As justices and judges on state courts around the nation, we have sworn and oath to uphold the United States Constitution. We have not sworn to blindly follow the unsubstantiated opinion of ‘five lawyers.’”

 Justice Parker quotes from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1992 abortion decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey

[T]he Court cannot buy support for its decisions by spending money and, except to a minor degree, it cannot independently coerce obedience to its decrees. The Court’s power lies, rather, in its legitimacy, a product of substance and perception that shows itself in the people’s acceptance of the Judiciary as fit to determine what the Nation’s law means and to declare what it demands…. [A] decision without principled justification would be no judicial act at all…. The Court must take care to speak and act in ways that allow people to accept its decision on the terms the Court claims for them, as grounded truly in principle, not compromises with social and political pressures having, as such, no bearing on the principled choices that the Court is obliged to make. Thus, the Court’s legitimacy depends on circumstances in which their principled character is sufficiently plausible to be accepted by the Nation.

 “Justices and judges are bound to interpret the U.S. Constitution. When they write opinions that have no legal foundation, then their opinions lack legal legitimacy. That is what the five lawyers did on the U.S. Supreme Court in the marriage opinion. They ignored the Constitution, the Court’s precedents, and millennia of human history. Their opinion calls into question the legitimacy of the Supreme Court. When we the people lose trust in the Justices, the authority of the Supreme Court is undermined. If the people accept this 5-4 opinion, then we have transitioned to a despotic form of government. The people must now decide if we are governed by the rule of law or the whim of unelected judges,” concluded Staver.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.