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Alabama’s recalcitrance

From an editorial Wednesday in the Washington Post:

Roy Moore, Alabama’s top judge, threw a fit this week over a federal court decision ordering the state to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The result was unnecessary and counterproductive statewide confusion as gay and lesbian couples attempted to wed and state officials weighed whether they should listen to Alabama’s chief justice or the federal judiciary.

There can be no question about who wins. Neither state nor federal officials can sustain Justice Moore’s lawless exhortations to ignore the federal bench. We trust that Alabama’s leaders, starting with the probate judges responsible for issuing marriage licenses, will bring the state into compliance with the court’s ruling. The number of probate judges refusing to comply dropped Tuesday. If that trend does not continue, state or federal authorities should step in more strongly.

That aside, the significance of Alabama’s marriage case lies in two bigger points about the advance of gay and lesbian rights. The movement is on the verge of a historic victory. But that doesn’t mean activists and allies have succeeded in fully transforming the culture that for so long denied gay men and lesbians equal treatment.

Supporters of gay rights should keep expectations in check about how much work remains to be done. Marriage equality is just one of many goals. State legislatures and federal lawmakers need to be persuaded to enhance civil rights protections for gay men and lesbians – prohibiting employment discrimination, for example. In places like Alabama, that will take a lot more effort.