To the editor: Your criticism of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore for ordering his state's probate judges not to obey a U.S. District Court judge is misplaced. The Alabama Constitution prohibits same-sex marriages. All authorities in Alabama are required to obey that law unless it is judicially overturned. ("Misjudgment in Alabama on same-sex marriage," Editorial, Feb. 9)
It is a curious fact of our federal system that state courts are not required to follow the rulings of lower federal courts. However, lower state courts are required to follow the rulings of state supreme courts. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the state Constitution does not offend the U.S. Constitution.
A lower federal court ruled that it does, but enjoined only the state's attorney general from enforcing it. As you state, the federal judge may well make the same ruling in other cases, but that does not make her decision binding upon Alabama courts.
Lower courts in Alabama are thus required to continue to follow the ruling of the Alabama Supreme Court. I think Moore's conduct in general is reprehensible, but on this legal issue he is correct.
John Hamilton Scott, Sherman Oaks
The writer is an attorney.
To the editor: I would suggest that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote that the court should "preserve the status quo pending the court's resolution of the constitutional question," brush up on his civil rights history, namely the involvement of an African American named Bayard Rustin. ("Supreme Court, in Alabama case, may have shown its hand on gay marriage," Feb. 9)
Rustin was part of Martin Luther King Jr.'s inner circle and was credited with influencing King's Gandhi-like peaceful protest philosophy. He organized the March on Washington and was also deeply involved in the Selma, Ala., march.
In fact, Thomas might not be where he is today if it were not for people like Rustin.
By the way: Rustin was openly gay.
Colin Hadlow, Los Angeles