Clarence Thomas: 'Another Example of This Court’s Increasingly Cavalier Attitude Toward the States'

By Terence P. Jeffrey | February 9, 2015 | 10:39 PM EST

Justice Clarence Thomas (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

( - In a dissenting opinion joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas excoriated his fellow justices for refusing to temporarily stop enforcement of a federal district judge's ruling that overturned the marriage laws of the state of Alabama and ordered Alabama to recognize as legal "marriages" unions between two people of the same sex.

On Jan. 23, U.S. District Judge Callie Granade ruled that Alabama laws limiting marriage to the union of one man and one woman violated the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection of the law. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange petitioned the Supreme Court to prevent the judge's decision from going into effect until the Supreme Court itself issued its ruling on same-sex marriage--which the court will do this term.

The Supreme Court refused to stay the lower court ruling--with Justice Thomas and Scalia dissenting.

In his dissent from the court's refusal to grant the stay, Justice Thomas rhetorically smacked his colleagues for disregarding it own standard practices and the deference due to state governments and voters.

"This acquiescence [in the lower court ruling] may well be seen as a signal of the Court’s intended resolution of that question [of same-sex marriage]," wrote Thomas.

"This is not the proper way to discharge our Article III responsibilities," he said. "And, it is indecorous for this Court to pretend that it is. Today’s decision represents yet another example of this Court’s increasingly cavalier attitude toward the States. Over the past few months, the Court has repeatedly denied stays of lower court judgments enjoining the enforcement of state laws on questionable constitutional grounds.

"It has similarly declined to grant certiorari to review such judgments without any regard for the people who approved those laws in popular referendums or elected the representatives who voted for them," wrote Thomas. "In this case, the Court refuses even to grant a temporary stay when it will resolve the issue at hand in several months."

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