The Alabama Supreme Court would like to do to marriage equality what it did to IVF

Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker
Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker Photo: Tom Parker

Last week, the Alabama Supreme Court gave the country a glimpse of the future that Republicans are working toward.

In an entirely predictable and reprehensible ruling, the court ruled that embryos that aren’t even implanted are human beings. The ruling essentially criminalizes in-vitro fertilization (IVF) technology in the state, as unused embryos are destroyed. The court capitalized on the U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down Roe v. Wade, a decision for which Alabama’s Supreme Court Justice had helped pave the way.

The court was ruling in the case of a couple suing an IVF clinic that destroyed the couple’s embryos by accidentally dropping them on the floor. The majority relied upon a 152-year-old law that allowed parents to sue for wrongful death of a child, saying that the law applied to all children, including the unborn and “extrauterine children.”

Mistaking the bench for a pulpit, Chief Justice Tom Parker provided the country with an object lesson in what Christian nationalism looks like.

“Even before birth, all human beings have the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory,” Parker wrote in his opinion.

Parker is no stranger to applying theocratic principles to a woman’s right to choose. Anti-abortion advocates credit his legal reasoning for building the case that succeeded in striking down Roe v. Wade last year.

But abortion is not the only issue that Parker is focused on. For decades, he has been attacking LGBTQ+ rights. In fact, he won his seat on the state supreme court in 2018 by promising to find the case that would overturn marriage equality. (He succeeded Roy Moore, a close ally who went down in flames as a Senate candidate following revelations about his interest in much younger women… and some minors, allegedly.)

“I’ve written extensively about the judicial overreach in the Obergefell decision, and it is going to be writings like that that the new [U.S. Supreme Court] majority can use to restore what our Founding Fathers intended for America to be,” Parker said in a radio interview then. Appropriately enough, he made the comments on a Wallbuilders program. Wallbuiders is a group formed by pseudo-historian David Barton, who would like to establish a theocracy in the U.S.

As a judge on the court in 2016, Parker said that judges should simply ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage. “Resisting that decision could maybe start a revival of what we need in this country to return to our original founding principles,” Parker said.

Since then, he has been looking for opportunities to get marriage equality overturned. In 2021, the Alabama Supreme Court heard the case of a woman whose would-be husband died before she could file the necessary paperwork to establish they were married. (Alabama passed a law two years earlier eliminating marriage licenses so that county clerks didn’t have to hand them over to same-sex couples.)

Parker was quick to rise in his pulpit to deliver a sermon.

“The relationship of marriage was designed by the Creator; it both predates and transcends civil societies,” Parker preached. “No civil government was its originator, so none has power to define its essence. Rather, the nature and outer boundaries of marriage are defined only by its Supreme Architect, in His written word and in the natural order. That nature and those boundaries include the original creation of marriage as a covenant relationship by mutual consent between two human beings of the opposite sexes – i.e. one man and one woman.”

Parker liberally sprinkled his opinion with quotes from the Bible, of course.

As a reminder, Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas have both said that Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that made marriage equality national, was wrongly decided. Indeed, just last week, Alito complained that Obergefell unfairly targeted people based on their religious beliefs.

Republicans predictably freaked out about the IVF decision because it rightly reminded voters of the logical conclusion of the party’s anti-abortion animus. But repealing the progress of the past 50 years is the chief aim of the party’s most fervent supporters. One of the biggest targets is LGBTQ+ progress.

Thinking Tom Parker is just a reflection of Alabama’s far-right landscape would be a mistake. He’s more a reflection of the landscape that the right wants to see across the entire nation.

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