TIME LGBT

Alabama Supreme Court Halts Same-Sex Marriage

The Alabama Supreme Court ordered the state's judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples

(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) — The Alabama Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the state’s probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, saying a previous federal ruling that gay-marriage bans violate the U.S. Constitution does not preclude them from following state law, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The all-Republican court sided with the argument offered by a pair of conservative organizations when they appealed a decision last month by U.S. District Judge Callie Granade of Mobile, who ruled that both Alabama’s constitutional and statutory bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.

Six justices concurred in the 134-page opinion, which wasn’t signed, but the court’s most outspoken opponent of gay marriage, Chief Justice Roy Moore, recused himself.

Immediately after Granade’s ruling, Moore told probate judges across the state they were not obliged to issue same-sex marriage licenses. His stance created widespread confusion, prompting some judges to refuse to issue the licenses and others to shut down their operations for all couples, gay and straight, until they could get a clear answer.

Justice Jim Main agreed with the result but said he has concerns about procedural aspects “of this highly unusual case.”

In a dissent, Justice Greg Shaw said it was “unfortunate” that federal courts refused to delay gay marriage in the state until the U.S. Supreme Court could settle the issue nationally. But, Shaw said, the state Supreme Court doesn’t have the power to consider the issue.

The court released the decision while Gov. Robert Bentley and most state leaders were assembled in Montgomery for the state of the state address. A spokeswoman for Bentley said the administration was reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment.

Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, said he was “very excited” about the decision blocking judges from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“We are concerned about the family and the danger that same-sex marriage will have. It will be a devastating blow to the family, which is already struggling,” Godfrey said.

Godfrey said the decision will give “some stability” in Alabama until the U.S Supreme Court rules later this year. An attorney couples who filed suit to allow gay marriages said the court showed “callous disregard” in the decision and overstepped its bounds by declaring that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriages is constitutional, something the justices hadn’t been asked to consider.

“It is deeply unfortunate that even as nationwide marriage equality is on the horizon, the Alabama Supreme Court is determined to be on the wrong side of history,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The court’s ruling Tuesday came in response to a request from the Alabama Policy Institute and the Baptist-run Alabama Citizens Action Program to halt same-sex unions after Granade’s ruling.

TIME weather

Southern Snowstorm Knocks Out Power, Wipes Out Flights

Breck Gorman
Steve Helber—AP Breck Gorman clears his driveway with a blower during a snowstorm in Richmond, Va. on Feb. 26, 2015.

The storm left a trail of travel headaches, school closings and power outages

A swift-moving storm that dumped as much as 10 inches of snow and slush across the Deep South on Wednesday brought a wintry blast to the Mid-Atlantic on Thursday. Washington, D.C., and its suburbs were hit with 1 to 3 inches of snow before the storm tapered off after 10 a.m., The Weather Channel reported. It will remain too far offshore to bring significant snowfall to New York or hard-hit Boston.

The storm left a trail of travel headaches, school closings and power outages. More than 156,000 homes and businesses in North Carolina were without power, along with 4,000 in Virginia, 13,000 in Alabama and 2,400 in Georgia…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Law

Alabama’s Governor Apologizes to India After a Man Was Injured in a Police Encounter

The 57-year-old man was left partially paralyzed after being wrestled to the pavement near his son's home

The governor of Alabama has tendered an apology to the government of India for the actions of two police officers in the city of Madison last week that resulted in serious injuries to an Indian man.

“I deeply regret the unfortunate use of excessive force by the Madison Police Department on Sureshbhai Patel and for the injuries sustained by Mr. Patel,” reads a letter from Governor Robert Bentley to Ajit Kumar, the Indian Consul General in Atlanta.

Patel, 57, was left partially paralyzed after being thrown on the ground by two police officers who stopped him on the sidewalk near his son’s home on Feb 6. Patel had come from India to help take care of his 17-month-old grandson.

“I sincerely hope that Mr. Patel continues to improve and that he will regain full use of his legs,” Bentley’s letter reads.

Bentley said he has also initiated an investigation into the incident by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, parallel to the one being conducted by the FBI.

Eric Parker, the 26-year-old policeman who turned himself in following the release of dashcam footage of the incident, and who was subsequently fired, has pleaded not guilty to assault charges leveled against him.

TIME Civil Rights

How Marriage Equality in Alabama Is Not Like the Civil Rights Movement

Alabama's governor George Wallace (L) fa
OFF / AFP/Getty Images Alabama's governor George Wallace (L) faces General Henry Graham, in Tuscaloosa, on June 12, 1963, at the University of Alabama

"The fundamental difference is that accepting gays and lesbians and their rights is not nearly as painful," says one historian of the Civil Rights era

Here’s an SAT-level analogy question: Is Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court to the marriage equality movement what Alabama Governor George Wallace was to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s?

The comparison is an easy one to make, and numerous outlets drew the connection on Monday, in the aftermath of Moore’s attempt to halt same-sex marriages in his state. Facing integration of the University of Alabama in 1963, which had been mandated years earlier by Brown v. Board of Education, Wallace tried to block the change and was met by National Guard troops. This week, Moore defied a federal District Court ruling by ordering local probate judges not to license same-sex marriages, a bold challenge to the established principle of federal supremacy over state courts. In short, both Wallace and Moore relied on states’ rights claims to defy the federal government’s demand for social change.

Still, while some may see Moore’s last stand as a symbolic stand like Wallace’s, historians say the difference in context suggests that Moore is more likely to disappear with a whimper than a bang. Wallace was a martyr for a population heavily invested in the status quo. Moore is a martyr for a population resigned to change.

“Wallace was riding the segregation wave at its height,” says Dan Carter, author of George Wallace biography The Politics of Rage. “The fundamental difference is that accepting gays and lesbians and their rights is not nearly as painful. I think the gay issue, even in the deep South, in the most conservative areas, it’s kind of a resigned acceptance.”

An analysis of demographic and voting data by the New York Times suggests that two-thirds of state residents are likely opposed to the unions. But opposition today is not nearly as strong as white southerners’ opposition to civil rights for black Americans was in 1963, Carter says, pointing to Southern newspaper coverage. In the 1960s, few Alabama newspapers would dare publish anything sympathetic to civil rights, according to Carter. On Monday, when same-sex marriages began, the state’s largest newspaper said it was an “extraordinary day.”

And, though a conflict between the state and federal governments persists — probate judges in some Alabama counties aren’t issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, citing Moore’s guidance — it remains unclear how the federal government will respond. At this point, it seems unlikely that such a response would mirror what happened in the 1960s.

“Bobby Kennedy was willing to bring in federal marshals, willing to nationalize the National Guard in states,” says University of Alabama history professor Glenn Feldman, referring to the then-Attorney General’s response to Wallace in the 1960s. “I’m not sure if the federal government today has the political backbone or will to make people respect it.”

Whether or not the White House ultimately cracks down on wayward Alabama judges, it’s hard to imagine that the situation would escalate as it did in 1963, when President John F. Kennedy sent in the National Guard to force integration. That’s because, in all likelihood, such measures would probably be unnecessary. Some of the judges under Moore’s purview ignored his order, and others said they’re waiting for clarification. Furthermore, Moore only has authority over the state’s judicial employees, not the state troopers and others whom Wallace used to fight integration.

Today, conservative Alabama Governor Robert Bentley seems sympathetic to Moore and hasn’t tried to restrict him. (He’s said he doesn’t want to “further complicate this issue.”) But he also seems likely to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling. “The issue of same sex marriage will be finally decided by the U.S. Supreme Court later this year,” he said in a statement. “I have great respect for the legal process, and the protections that the law provides for our people.”

For his part, President Obama — who has addressed the comparison to Wallace — also seems to believe that the courts can take care of this issue on their own, without the kind of intervention that was necessitated five decades ago. “I think that the courts at the federal level will have something to say to him,” he told BuzzFeed News about Roy Moore this week.

So, the states’-rights justifications for Wallace and Moore may be the same, but historical distinctions mean the resolution to Moore’s defiance is likely to be far less dramatic than Wallace’s was.

There is one more difference between them, however, and it suggests that such a resolution may not be the end of Moore’s story: Moore may not be ready to give up, even when moving on makes political sense. Wallace’s opposition to integration was driven by a political desire to win over his constituents, Feldman and Carter note, so he changed his views when it was no longer advantageous for him to oppose civil rights. Looking at Moore, however, they see someone whose deeply-held religious beliefs may lead him to push his authority further, even as the opinions of those around him evolve.

“He actually believes this stuff,” says Feldman. “He actually believes in his heart of hearts that the federal government is not a position to tell states what to do.”

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: Gay Marriages Go Ahead in Alabama

Despite a judge's order in defiance of federal ruling to allow gay marriage in the state.

Marriages between same-sex couples in Alabama began on Monday, despite an order by Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy S. Moore not to issue marriage licenses, in defiance of a federal judge’s ruling.

TIME Courts

Justice Thomas Says Supreme Court Has Signaled Support for Gay Marriage

The decision not to take up Alabama's ruling in favor of gay marriage speaks volumes, the conservative Justice writes

Correction appended Feb. 12

Justice Clarence Thomas criticized the Supreme Court’s decision not to postpone the start of same-sex marriages in Alabama Monday, in a dissent that suggested his colleagues had already made up their mind on gay marriage ahead of a ruling later this term.

“This acquiescence may well be seen as a signal of the court’s intended resolution of that question,” Thomas wrote in his dissent to a decision not to review a lower court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. “This is not the proper way to discharge our [constitutional] responsibilities. And, it is indecorous for this Court to pretend that it is.”

Read More: Why the Supreme Court is Set to Make History on Gay Marriage

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade struck down Alabama’s ban of same-sex marriage in January, but stayed implementation of the decision so it could be appealed to the Supreme Court. On Sunday, the justices declined to hear an appeal by a vote of 7-2 and, by default, allowed same-sex marriage to begin there. Thomas was joined in his dissent by Justice Antonin Scalia.

The Supreme Court will hear challenges to same-sex marriage bans in four states in the coming months and is expected to issue a ruling by the end of June. The decision will likely apply to all 50 states.

Correction: The original version of this article misstated the Supreme Court Justice who joined Clarence Thomas in his dissent. It was Antonin Scalia.

TIME Laws

Alabama’s ‘Ten Commandments Judge’ Defies the Feds Over Gay Marriage

Roy Moore
Rogelio V. Solis—AP Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court addresses a Pro-Life Mississippi and a Pastors for Life pastors luncheon in Jackson, Miss., Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. Moore told the attendees that he cannot separate his faith from his job as chief justice and continues to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage.

Roy Moore has a history of defying federal orders

On Sunday, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore told the state’s probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, an order defying a ruling last month by a federal judge that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

A state judge refusing to follow federal orders is rare. But for Moore, it would’ve been more unusual if he went along with the decision quietly.

Judge Moore is often known as the “Ten Commandments Judge.” When Moore, a devout Christian who often relies on Biblical scripture in his rulings, began his judicial career as an Alabama circuit court judge in the 1990s, he placed a Ten Commandments tablet he had carved himself behind his courtroom bench and began instituting prayer before jury selection.

Soon enough, the American Civil Liberties Union sued Moore for violating the Constitution’s Establishment Clause in the First Amendment. In 1996, a Montgomery County circuit judge ruled that prayer in the courtroom was unconstitutional and later ordered that the Ten Commandments display either be removed or placed alongside secular documents like the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. To that, Moore responded: “I will not surround the Ten Commandments with other items to secularize them. That’s putting man above God.”

But Moore eventually won out. In 1998, the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuits, and the commandments stayed. And Moore’s popularity, thanks to his conservative defiance, skyrocketed. Two years later, he was elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

In 2001, Moore again made national news when he issued an opinion in the case D.H. vs. H.H., a custody battle between a lesbian and her ex-husband who she said was abusive. In his concurring opinion, Judge Moore ruled for the ex-husband, saying that the woman’s sexual orientation was grounds enough to prevent her from taking custody of the children.

A year later, Moore resurrected the Ten Commandments debate when he had a 5,200-lb. granite Ten Commandments monument commissioned and placed inside the Alabama State Judicial Building. Two lawsuits were filed, and by August 2003, a federal judge ordered the monument removed. Again, Moore refused, forcing his fellow justices to remove it instead and sparking thousands of protesters to rally in support of Moore outside the state judicial building. But they weren’t able to save his job. Later that year, a state judicial panel removed Moore from his post as chief justice.

In the years following, Moore unsuccessfully ran for Alabama governor twice and in 2012 was re-elected chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court. “I have no doubt this is a vindication,” Moore said after his election. “Go home with the knowledge that we are going to stand for the acknowledgment of God.”

Moore’s latest tenure has been relatively quiet until this week. His latest attempts to ignore federal orders and block the state from handing out marriage licenses to gay couples, while extraordinary for other justices, is natural for a judge with a history of judicial defiance. But this time, Moore appears to be experiencing the kind of resistance he’s sown for years.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would allow same-sex marriages to move forward, and most judges appeared to be following suit — defying a state judge who has made judicial disobedience his defining characteristic.

 

TIME Courts

Gay Marriage Begins in Alabama Despite Top Judge’s Order

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy S. Moore had told local judges not to issue licenses

Local officials in Alabama began issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples Monday, after the state’s top judge set up a high-stakes legal showdown with a federal court when he ordered local judges not to comply with a ruling legalizing gay marriage in the state.

“Effective immediately, no Probate Judge of the State of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama Probate Judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent with [state law],”Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy S. Moore said in an order. He explained his move as “necessary for the orderly administration of justice within the state.”

The U.S. Supreme Court denied the state’s request to stop same-sex marriages in Alabama on Monday morning, and there were scattered reports of judges issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as expected. A United States district court ruled last month that Alabama must issue same-sex marriage licenses starting Monday. Moore issued his order when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene.

MORE: Gay Marriage and the Law of the Land

Moore wrote that his order protects both the U.S. and Alabama constitutions. But the move, a dramatic challenge to the authority of the federal judiciary, drew quick condemnation in legal circles. Federal courts supersede state courts and Moore lacks the authority to disregard a federal court decision, they said.

His move also drew comparison the state’s attempts to avoid implementing federal court decisions during the civil rights era. Then-Gov. George Wallace made a similar states’ rights argument when he famously tried to block the implementation of a federal order to integrate the University of Alabama in 1963.

TIME

Man Cited for Eating a Cheeseburger While Driving

87992980
Getty Images Double cheeseburger

Put out an APB on a royale with cheese

Drive-thru enthusiasts, let this be a warning. A man got a ticket in an Atlanta suburb last week, after a police officer observed him driving for two miles while eating a cheeseburger — specifically, a double quarter pounder with cheese.

“[The officer] said specifically three times, you can’t just go down the road eating a hamburger,” Madison Tuner told WSB-TV. “Maybe I was enjoying the burger too much I needed to tone it down. I was certainly willing to do so but I didn’t expect to be fined or punished.”

Turner, from Alabama, was cited by Cobb County authorities for violating Georgia distracted driving laws, and will have his day in court on Feb. 3. The amount that Turner will have to pay was unclear.

A 2012 study from out of the University of Leeds found that drivers have a 44% slower reaction time than usual. That’s more significant than using a phone (which decreases reaction time by 37.4%) and alcohol at the legal limit (which slows things by 12.5%).

And for those who have beef with the food in question — “Maybe if you had a giant pizza in both hands and you weren’t holding the wheel or maybe if you had a watermelon, half watermelon and you were just diving into it holding it with both hands, maybe that would be something,” a traffic attorney told WSB-TV — a 2009 study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 80% of all car accidents involved drivers who were eating. The biggest food culprit was burgers.

[WSB-TV]

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