On Jan. 23, a federal judge declared Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The state government, especially its judicial system, has shown significant resistance toward the ruling, even after a state attempt and failure to appeal. Alabama counties have been ordered to start issuing same-sex marriage licenses. However, many counties are refusing, citing the state constitution’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The current situation in Alabama highlights the debate over states’ rights versus national supremacy, a question that finds its roots all the way back in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798. The issue flared up significantly during the Nullification Crisis in 1832, when South Carolina refused to implement a federal tariff that it deemed the “Tariff of Abominations”. The state and federal governments ultimately reached a compromise, substantially lowering the tariff but not abolishing it completely.
In modern times, situations like this have become much less commonplace, as it is almost systematic for states and counties to follow federal rulings.
However, states in the Deep South have traditionally been very conservative and strongly opposed to the LGBT rights movement, arguing that it goes against their culture, beliefs, and values. Additionally, the Alabama state constitution technically bans same-sex marriage. Is it constitutionally permissible for the federal government to force Alabama counties to issue same-sex marriage licenses?
Alabama governor Robert Bentley has stated that he would “never do anything to disobey a federal court ruling,” his personal beliefs aside. He believes counties not issuing same-sex marriage licenses are violating the law.
In Maryland, courts have been issuing same-sex marriage licenses since 2013. As a heavily liberal county, Montgomery County has proven itself to be mostly accepting of same-sex marriage. However, students have differing opinions on the state’s involvement in federal rulings.
“My opinion is that counties should side with federal governments on most issues,” Lucy Lee, a freshman at Winston Churchill High School said. “However, if [the federal government] is restricting freedoms or rights, such as banning same-sex marriages, then it should be the state’s decision.”
Brent Jamsa, a freshman from Quince Orchard High School, has a more conservative attitude. “Marriage is a privilege that is regulated by the states. Counties do not have the right to not follow a state law. In addition, I believe that the issue of same sex marriage should be left to the states and all original bans and legalizations should be reinstated.”
The Supreme Court has recently agreed to hear four appeals concerning the constitutionality of bans on same-sex marriage licenses and bans on recognizing same-sex marriage licenses issued by other states. A final verdict is expected by late June. This decision has the potential to change the course of the LGBT rights movement forever.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Omisa Jinsi of Churchill High School
Graphic by the MoCo Student staff graphic artist Valencia Fu of Richard Montgomery High School