Same-Sex Marriage Is Officially Legal In Alabama, Making Australia More Backwards Than Alabama On Something
Well this is embarrassing.
Today, Alabama became the 37th state in the US to legalise same-sex marriage. The first same-sex marriage licenses were handed out this morning at the Birmingham courthouse, where many couples then chose to wed.
Of course, the legalisation of same-sex marriage is becoming increasingly common all around the world — it’s now established in dozens of countries including New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, the UK, France and much of Europe, as well as an increasing number of US states, notably New York, Washington State and California.
But Alabama doesn’t really fit comfortably on that list. The momentum for the decision has largely come from the US Supreme Court, and has been met with significant pushback from Alabama lawmakers. When a federal judge overturned Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban on the matter a couple of weeks ago, the state was quick to issue a number of appeals pleading the ruling was unconstitutional. The Republican Attorney-General and Chief Justice of the state’s Supreme Court both campaigned to keep the marriages on hold — the latter even went so far as to block judges from issuing marriage licenses — but their battle has been lost.
The Supreme Court, which has been considering the issue for a number of years, has recently begun arguing that the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution should guarantee all citizens the freedom to wed. The 14th Amendment specifically stops the states from denying any person “life, liberty or property, without due process of law” or “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”. It played a large role in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s. As a result of this, traditionally conservative states like Alabama (and Arkansas, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Texas) are now having their bans against same-sex marriage overturned, despite the wishes of state legislatures.
So. It should be stated plainly that this is very, very good news. Many people who never thought they would have the chance to marry the person they love in their home state are finally getting to do exactly that. It is monumental.
But here’s the kind of shitty thing. With a large number of Australian politicians and more importantly the High Court still opposed to same-sex marriage, did we just become a place with less civil rights than Alabama?
Let’s take a look at this bastion of progressive politics which is putting us to shame.
Alabama Doesn’t Really Acknowledge That Whole “Separation Of Church And State” Thing
In 2011, the state’s Governor Robert J. Bentley — who is actually still in office — effectively told a crowd of his constituents that he was only there for them if they were Christian.
“Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their saviour, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother,” Bentley said.
He was understandably quick to backtrack from those comments, but similar sentiments are common in many of his public remarks. Here he is going full Jesus in a Christmas message from around the same time.
Like, They Really Couldn’t Give A Single Shit
The current Chief Justice Roy Moore — you know, the one who directly disobeyed a ruling from the US Supreme Court this week by pleading with judges to withhold marriage certificates to same-sex couples — has an even more ridiculous history with this kind of thing. As a judge in 2003, he gained national notoriety by erecting a 2.5 tonne monument of the Ten Commandments outside the Alabama Judicial Building. Seriously.
Eventually everyone came to their senses and a lawsuit was filed against him arguing that the monument was essentially religious endorsement before the court ordered him to remove it. He was then ousted from the Supreme Court before somehow coming back nearly a decade later as Chief Justice.
Thankfully, photos like this live on forever.
— BreitbartUnmasked (@BreitbartUnmask) February 9, 2015
Alabama Has No Laws Against Discrimination Or Hate Crimes Based On Sexual Orientation Or Gender Identity
Being the birthplace of the civil rights movement, Alabama has some very sound laws in place to prevent racial discrimination. But worryingly, it does not have any specific legislation in place to protect people on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.
This is a stipulation that is made in more than 30 states across the US, and even in Australia, to recognise the full extent of a perpetrator’s offence. As hate crimes are directed at a particular sub-section of society, there is often a higher chance the defendant will offend again, and in many cases they will be given harsher punishment in consequence.
Thankfully these specifics are covered under federal laws which apply to all citizens, but considering crimes like assault and homicide are prosecuted within the state, it remains worrying.
Their Politicians Don’t Help Matters Either
Alabama state representatives are well known for the odd homophobic aside, but nothing can quite compare the work of past state senator Jerry Fielding. In 2013, after Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson was suspended from his show for comparing homosexuality to bestiality and suggesting that the African Americans were happier as slaves, Alabama’s finest elected representative put forward a resolution to declare the man a hero.
“Renown[ed] entrepreneur, Louisiana outdoorsman, and reality television star Phil Robertson has positively impacted countless lives through the powerful testimony of his steadfast faith in Jesus Christ and how it has transformed his life,” the statement read.
“Phil has received backlash for expressing his personal views on homosexuality that were based on scripture in the Bible in an interview with GQ Magazine; ultimately, the Arts and Entertainment Network (A&E) punished him for his beliefs … Phil should not be penalised in any way for practicing freedom of speech, but should be celebrated as a hero for courageously revealing his self-truth and Christian ideals in a world that can be unkind towards those with a conservative mind-set.”
“Be it resolved by the Legislature of Alabama, both houses thereof concurring, that this chamber of persons stand united in support of Phil Robertson and his family.”
Just in case you have no idea who this is (which is honestly quite likely), here’s a picture:
Alabama Has Some Of The Harshest Immigration Laws In The US
Despite the fact that no one in their right mind would want to move there in the first place, Alabama has a long tradition of making life difficult for immigrants. In 2011 they passed the notorious HB 56 legislation that “attack[ed] every aspect of an illegal alien’s life”.
Those were the actual words used by the bill’s sponsor Micky Hammon when presenting it. “This bill is designed to make it difficult for them to live here so they will deport themselves,” he boasted.
It namely did this by naming and shaming undocumented immigrants and made it illegal for them to seek work, rent homes, or go to school. The law required schools to screen students who they thought may be illegal and allowed anyone to be detained by the police upon suspicion of being an illegal immigrant.
Thankfully, a few years later, the whole thing’s proven to be a bit of a dud, but things still don’t look great. Republican Alabama representative Robert Aderholt caused a totally futile ruckus just last month when he tried to rival President Obama’s executive orders on the issue,and Alabama is still full of people pushing for the same kind of thing.
FYI, that guy has been a legitimate contender in more than one Republican primary for Governor.
Here’s One More Fun Fact About Alabama
Before today, it was legal to marry your first cousin but not your partner of the same sex.
Australia, please take a long hard look at yourself.
Feature image via Instagram.