Alabama Supreme Court rules 7-1: no gay marriage licenses

The Alabama Supreme Court ordered probate judges on Tuesday to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in apparent defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court, underscoring the depth of opposition to gay matrimony in the socially conservative state.

The 7-1 ruling comes roughly three weeks after U.S. District Judge Callie Granade’s decision overturning Alabama’s ban on gay marriage went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to put it on hold.

“As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for ‘marriage’ between only one man and one woman,” Tuesday’s state supreme court ruling said. “Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law.

“Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty.”

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed this year to take up the issue of whether states can ban gay marriage. Its expected ruling in June likely will provide clarity on the issue in Alabama, as well as the 13 states where gay marriage remains illegal.

The Alabama high court ruling, which granted an emergency petition by two Alabama groups opposed to gay marriage, will likely not affect those same-sex couples in Alabama who have already received marriage licenses….

By Jonathan Kaminsky – Reuters –

Judicial defiance in Alabama: Judges refuse gay marriages

On the day that same-sex unions became legal in Alabama, local officials in dozens of counties on Monday defied a federal judge’s decision and refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, casting the state into judicial chaos.

Gay couples were able to get licenses in about a dozen places, including Birmingham, Huntsville and a few other counties where probate judges complied with the judge’s decision. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled early Monday that it would deny Alabama’s request to put the marriages on hold.

But in the majority of counties, officials said they would refuse to license same-sex marriages or stop providing licenses altogether, confronting couples — gay and heterosexual — with locked doors and shuttered windows.

Many of the state’s 68 probate judges mounted their resistance to the federal decision at the urging of the firebrand chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore. He is best known for refusing more than a decade ago to comply with a court order to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from the state Supreme Court’s offices.

In Mobile, about 10 gay couples who had expected to be granted licenses first thing in the morning found the marriage-license window closed indefinitely….

A federal judge in Mobile ruled in their case last month that Alabama must allow same-sex marriages, striking down its ban and setting the stage for it to become the 37th state, plus the District of Columbia, to permit such unions and the second in the Deep South. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in April over whether there is a constitutional right for gay couples to marry nationwide.

Gay rights supporters likened the actions of Moore and the probate judges to those of Alabama leaders who in the 1960s defied orders to desegregate schools….

Some social conservatives cheered the actions of the defiant probate judges. Mat Staver, chief executive of Liberty Counsel, said the probate judges are not under the jurisdiction of the federal courts and therefore were not compelled to comply with the federal judge’s order to allow same-sex marriages.

“I think the probate judges acted appropriately,” said Staver, whose group is representing at least eight of the judges.

Their actions show that pockets of deep resistance to gay marriage remain despite the gains made by advocates, who have seen support for their cause spike nationally. Backing for same-sex marriage in Alabama stood at 32 percent in 2012, a smaller proportion than all but two states, according to the Williams Institute, a think tank that studies gay issues….

At least 12 counties denied licenses to same-sex couples, according to AL.com, an Alabama news site. More than 40 stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether Monday, though at least 20 of those were still accepting applications for marriage licenses. Nine counties agreed to marry everyone.

A letter late Sunday from Moore, the chief justice, advised probate judges to follow state law and refuse to give licenses to gay couples. Those who violated his order would face a reprimand by the governor, Moore wrote.

“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 a constitutional amendment and a state law banning same-sex unions, he wrote.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) said Monday that he will not punish probate judges in the state who do or do not issue marriage licenses.

“This issue has created confusion with conflicting direction for Probate Judges in Alabama,” Bentley said in a statement. “Probate judges have a unique responsibility in our state, and I support them. I will not take any action against Probate Judges, which would only serve to further complicate this issue.”

….The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Alabama’s request to stay the same-sex marriages until the justices rule later this year on whether there is a constitutional right to gay unions. Two justices, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, dissented, saying they would have granted the stay.

“I would have shown the people of Alabama the respect they deserve and preserved the status quo while the Court resolves this important constitutional question,” Thomas wrote.

By Mark Berman,Brian Murphy,& Robert Barnes – Washington Post –

Pastors to Lesbian Houston Mayor: Don’t Mess with Texas Preachers

By Bradley Dean – Sons Of Liberty Media –

As I reported on earlier, Houston’s lesbian mayor Annise Parker and her city council have failed to uphold the law. The first failed by allowing her homosexual activities, second in the proposition of a “bathroom bill” that would allow men to use women’s bathrooms, and third by ignoring the law concerning a citizen’s initiative to turn her warped bill on its head. As a result, a lawsuit has been filed and a discovery process has begun as a subpoena has been issued to receive the sermons and communications of many pastors in the area. Now the pastors are speaking out and they have a warning for Parker and her gang: Don’t mess with Texas preachers.

Executive Director of the Texas Pastor Council Dave Welch, one of five pastors who received the subpoena, said he would not be intimidated by Parker nor comply with the city’s demands.

“My answer to that is – bring it on,” he said.

Not one of the five pastors is listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, which was filed after the citizens’ initiative drew more than three times the required signatures, was certified by the city secretary and then rejected by Parker and the city’s attorney.

Russell Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told Starnes, “The government has absolutely no reason to bully congregations who are speaking out about what they believe. It’s none of the government’s business.”

….Mayor Parker pulled a Barack Obama when it came to the subpoena of the pastor’s communications and sermons. According to Attorney Feldman, Parker had nothing to do with the subpoenas and that she was never informed. However, when Starnes pressed him on when she became informed, Feldman said, “When you guys broke the story.” Doesn’t that sound just like Barack Obama’s statement, “I learned about it in the news”?

Moore said he couldn’t imagine anyone in City Hall that thought any of this was a good idea and called it “buffoonish” in its strategy.

Moore took time to write a blog post titled Houston, We have a Constitution on Tuesday stating:

“The churches, and pastors, of Houston ought to respond to this sort of government order with the same kind of defiance the Apostle Paul showed the magistrates in Philippi. After an earthquake, sent by God, upturned the prison where Paul and Silas were held, Luke tells us that the officials sent the police to tell Paul and Silas they could go. Paul replied. “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned men who are Roman citizens and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly. No! Let them come themselves and take us out” (Acts 16:37).

A government has no business using subpoena power to intimidate or bully the preaching and instruction of any church, any synagogue, any mosque, or any other place of worship. The pastors of Houston should tell the government that they will not trample over consciences, over the First Amendment and over God-given natural rights.

…the preaching of the church of God does not belong to Caesar, and we will not hand it over to him. Not now. Not ever.”

 
Continue Reading

City of Houston Demands Pastors Turn Over Sermons

By Todd Starnes – Tea Party Patriot News –

The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.

“The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christina Holcomb said in a statement. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.”

ADF, a nationally-known law firm specializing in religious liberty cases, is representing five Houston pastors. They filed a motion in Harris County court to stop the subpoenas arguing they are “overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious.”

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” Holcomb said. “It is protected by the First Amendment.”….

Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, said pastors around the nation should rally around the Houston ministers.

“The state is breaching the wall of separation between church and state,” Perkins told me. ‘Pastors need to step forward and challenge this across the country. I’d like to see literally thousands of pastors after they read this story begin to challenge government authorities – to dare them to come into their churches and demand their sermons.”

….The pastors I(Starnes)spoke to tell me they will not comply with the subpoena – putting them at risk for a “fine or confinement, or both.”

Heaven forbid that should happen. But if it does, Christians across America should be willing to descend en masse upon Houston and join these brave men of God behind bars.

Pastor Welch compared the culture war skirmish to the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto, fought in present-day Harris County, Texas. It was a decisive battle of the Texas Revolution….
Continue Reading

Thousands of pastors defying IRS

By Bob Unruh – WND.com –

It’s been a rough year or so for the Internal Revenue Service. The agency has been in the news for “losing” key computer records that Congress wants to investigate. There was the scandal over high-level attempts to investigate and intimidate churches. And there were the demands that certain conservative and Christian groups reveal their prayers and promise not to oppose Planned Parenthood.

Oh, and don’t forget the agency’s huge role in collecting funds for Obamacare.

Now, in open defiance of agency rules, thousands of pastors have told their congregations what the Bible says about the positions held by electoral candidates.

As WND founder and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Farah explained in a commentary way back in 2008, Congress was pushed by then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, D-Texas, in 1954 to adopt regulations for the IRS that ban churches from endorsing candidates.

It never should have happened, he said.

“Under the First Amendment, Congress has no power to tax churches. Period. End of story. Under the First Amendment, Congress has no power to stifle freedom of speech. Ever since 1954, the government has unevenly applied its illegitimate oversight of churches – winking as some pastors turn their churches over to political candidates to make stump speeches, while warning others it is inappropriate. There is only one real solution – repeal the Johnson Amendment.”

That’s the goal of pastors who participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, an effort the Alliance Defending Freedom.

The annual event, started in 2008, encourages pastors to openly preach on the “biblical perspectives on the positions of electoral candidates.”

They also sign a statement agreeing the IRS should not control the content of a pastor’s sermons.

More than 3,800 pastors already have taken part, including 1,517 who preached Oct. 5 and another 242 who signed the statement. Others participated in earlier events, and the movement is growing weekly.

ADF explains: “Pulpit Freedom Sunday gives pastors the opportunity to exercise their constitutionally protected freedom to engage in religious expression from the pulpit despite an Internal Revenue Service rule known as the Johnson Amendment, which activist groups often use to silence churches by threatening their tax-exempt status.”

ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley, who heads the Pulpit Freedom Sunday event, said the tax-collecting IRS “shouldn’t be playing speech cop and threatening a church’s tax-exempt status simply because its pastor exercises his constitutionally protected freedom of speech.”

 
Continue Reading