By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Friday, January 23, Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), US Representative Gary Palmer (R-Hoover), and Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead issued written statements following Friday’s ruling from a federal judge stating that the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act are unconstitutional.
Speaker Hubbard said, “It is outrageous when a single unelected and unaccountable federal judge can overturn the will of millions of Alabamians who stand in firm support of the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment. The Legislature will encourage a vigorous appeals process, and we will continue defending the Christian conservative values that make Alabama a special place to live.”
US District Judge Callie “Ginny” Granade struck down Alabama’s State Constitutional Amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman. The Constitutional amendment banning same-sex couples was ratified by a vote of the people of Alabama.
Judge Granade ruled, “There is no law prohibiting infertile couples, elderly couples, or couples who do not wish to procreate from marrying. Nor does the state prohibit recognition of marriages between such couples from other states. The Attorney General fails to demonstrate any rational, much less compelling, link…the laws in question are an irrational way of promoting biological relationships in Alabama.”
Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armstead said in a statement, “Tonight’s news is a clear demonstration of how traditional values espoused by Alabamians have begun to erode even in our conservative state. The far left-wing radical agenda of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party have brought to Alabama’s front door their effort to redefine marriage. Alabamians spoke when they voted in 2006 by 81 percent to adopt the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, which makes it unconstitutional for the state to recognize or perform same-sex marriages or civil unions.”
Congressman Gary Palmer said in a written statement, “I’m more than disappointed by the ruling. This is yet another attempt to usurp the will of the people through judicial fiat. I hope the 11th Circuit will quickly reverse the decision.”
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) had led the legal fight against Alabama’s defense of marriage law. HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said in a written statement, “Judge Granade’s ruling today affirms what we already know to be true – that all loving, committed Alabama couples should have the right to marry. As the US Supreme Court prepares to hear a landmark case on marriage equality, today’s ruling joins the dozens and dozens of others that have recognized that committed and loving gay and lesbian couples deserve equal treatment under the law.”
At the time, many media outlets believed that this meant that gays in Alabama could now receive marriage licenses. The Alabama Probate Judge’s Association has assured us that that is not the case.
While Judge Granade ruled that the ban was in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment, the Probate Judge’s Association said in a written statement that that ruling only applied to the plaintiffs in the case, Kimberly McKeand and Cari Seacy, are a lesbian couple who were legally married in San Diego, California, but live in Mobile. McKeand has a five year old son. Since the McKeand – Seacy marriage is not recognized by Alabama law, Seacy could not lawfully adopt McKeand’s son. The couple challenged the state’s ban and sued challenging the law.
Judge Greg Norris, President of the Alabama Probate Judges Association, said that he hopes that misinterpretation of Friday’s ruling will not cause confusion among the general public.
Judge Norris wrote, “As probate judges, our duty is to issue marriage licenses in accordance with Alabama law and that means we can not legally issue marriage licenses to same sex couples,” Norris said. “The recent federal ruling does not change that.”
Both supporters and opponents of gay marriage reached another conclusion.
On Friday, Chairman Armistead wrote, “I urge the Attorney General’s office to use every resource available to challenge, to the fullest extent, this ruling and stop the federal government’s overreaching power in this case. The fact that a federal judge in Alabama has ruled against Alabama’s constitution is a clear indication that the Democratic Party’s platform to promote same-sex marriage is impacting our way of life in Alabama. Few elected officials remain in the Democratic Party in Alabama today because of the radical positions taken by their Party and implemented federal judges like Judge Granade. I suspect that there will be even fewer elected officials in Alabama who claim to be Democrats after this ruling.”
The Deputy Legal Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) LGBT Rights Project David Dinielli wrote, “This historic ruling is a giant step toward full equality for LGBT people in Alabama and does not harm anyone. It is a victory for Alabama families and the children of same-sex couples whose lives will have more stability and certainty now that they are afforded the same rights and privileges as other married couples.”
Clearly there is some confusion between the Alabama Probate Judge’s Association and other legal professionals thus some additional clarification from Judge Granade or a higher federal court is very likely in the coming days. It is our understanding that same sex couples applying for a marriage license in Alabama on Monday, January 25 will still be denied.
Late on Sunday, District Judge Granade agreed to stay her controversial decision for two weeks to give the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals time to decide whether or not they want to hear the state’s appeal. The 11th Circuit would have the right to decide whether or not to extend the stay.
Whether the courts or the legislatures will ultimately decide how marriage is defined in the United States will almost certainly be decided soon by the US Supreme Court.
Sessions: Tuberville’s fraud scandal “can’t just be swept under the rug”
Jeff Sessions criticized Tuberville’s actions as a “major fraud scheme that bilked large sums of money from hardworking people,” which “can’t just be swept under the rug.”
After The New York Times published an investigation into a financial fraud scandal involving Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, his opponent, former Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, criticized Tuberville’s actions as a “major fraud scheme that bilked large sums of money from hardworking people,” which “can’t just be swept under the rug.”
“This is an astounding story,” Sessions said. “Based on the facts already uncovered, it is clear that Tommy Tuberville was one of two partners in a major hedge fund fraud scheme that bilked large sums of money from hardworking people, including Alabamians.”
Tuberville’s partner was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the scheme by the court in Opelika, while Tuberville was sued for fraud, paying out a sum of money in a private settlement that has been kept out of the public eye.
“This can’t just be swept under the rug, and Tuberville can’t just brush it aside by falsely claiming he was some innocent victim,” Sessions said. “Indeed, he was a victimizer and held himself out as the ‘managing partner’ of the firm. Tuberville must give a full and complete accounting of this scandal. The people of Alabama deserve to know the complete truth now, before the election, about the man who is asking to be their senator.”
This scandal has been widely talked about in Republican circles for months or longer, but The New York Times article details the allegations for one of the first times in the national spotlight.
Tuberville became a full partner in a hedge fund with former Lehman Brothers broker John David Stroud. Their ventures included TS Capital Management and TS Capital Partners. The T stands for Tuberville and the S for Stroud.
Tuberville did not pick which stocks to buy or sell, and as the head football coach at Texas Tech University and later at the University of Cincinnati, he was not even a frequent presence in the office. Tuberville introduced Stroud to potential investors and even had business cards identifying himself as managing partner. He also leased a BMW and got his health insurance through the company.
The firm’s offices in Auburn were filled with his coaching memorabilia. In 2010, he traveled to New York with Stroud to meet potential brokers, and was kept in the loop on decisions about hiring. A source told APR that a number of SEC coaches were among the people defrauded by TS Capital.
When the money was all lost, Stroud was sentenced to 10 years in prison and Tuberville was sued by the investors for fraud and failure to carry out his fiduciary duties. Tuberville reportedly lost $450,000 of his own money and then had to pay out more than $1 million to the investors. The New York Times reported that his total losses were more than $2 million.
The financial scandal has many Republicans concerned about the viability of Tuberville’s general election campaign to unseat incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama.
“I think that Tuberville did not do anything wrong,” said Rev. John Killian, a conservative activist. “He is a good man, but the Doug Jones campaign, they would use this to the ninth degree.”
“They will shoot Tuberville up in 30 second and 60 second TV spots,” Killian added. “I don’t think Tuberville is crooked, but Doug Jones has $10 million to spend. I think they are lying in wait for Tuberville like they were for Roy Moore.”
Killian said that he will support Tuberville if he wins the Republican nomination, but that he is supporting Jeff Sessions in the primary because he is the strongest general election candidate to face Jones.
Tuberville supporter and Trump Victory National Committee member Perry Hooper Jr. was dismissive of assertions that Tuberville could be vulnerable.
“Coach has a commanding lead. He will win the run-off, and he will crush Doug Jones in the general election in November,” Hooper told APR.
Tuberville maintains that he was a victim of the fraud — not a perpetrator.
“They sued me because I invested in it, and he used my name to get other people to put money in,” Tuberville said. “There was nothing ever implicated by anybody that I’d done anything wrong. I felt bad that he used my name.”
The New York Times has asked Tuberville to release the plaintiffs from their confidentiality agreement. Tuberville to this point has declined. Stroud has been released from prison but has not commented on his relationship with Tuberville. Tuberville faces Sessions in the July 14 Republican runoff.
President Donald Trump has endorsed Tuberville, and Tuberville is leading Sessions in most available polling.
Lauderdale Republicans pass resolution defending Florence Confederate monument
Lauderdale County Republicans responded to calls to take down a local monument by passing a resolution urging elected leaders to oppose its removal.
The Lauderdale County Republican Executive Committee passed a resolution Thursday, by a unanimous vote, urging the Lauderdale County Commission and Florence City Council to take a stand and defend the Confederate monument in Florence.
The monument was erected to Alabamians who fought and died for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. A growing number of people today say that they fought to defend slavery and that Confederate monuments instead are symbols of white oppression over Black Americans and should be removed from public places.
The Lauderdale County Republicans responded to these calls to take down their local monument by passing a resolution urging elected leaders to oppose removing the monument.
The Lauderdale County GOP said in a statement that they are taking “a stand against the ‘cancel culture’ Marxists and passed this resolution.”
“We are urging the Lauderdale County Commission and Florence City Council to honor their oaths of office and follow the law! We are also calling on all of our elected officials to declare their position on the matter,” the statemeant read.
The resolution states that, “The Lauderdale County Monument to the men of the County who served in the Confederate Army in the War between the States 1861-1865 fought against oppressive taxation and for states’ rights in an army that included African-Americans in support and combat roles, was dedicated in 1903 and has stood in front of the county courthouse for 117 years.”
The resolution alleges that: “There is a movement of liberal and radical organizations, not representatives of the majority of citizens of Lauderdale County which currently are attempting to destroy and record of the courage and sacrifice of our ancestors in the United States.”
The cities of Birmingham and Mobile have already taken down their Confederate monuments in open defiance of existing state law in the state’s Memorials Preservation Act.
Prichard Mayor Jimmy Gardner to run for reelection
Prichard Mayor Jimmie Gardner said Monday in a statement that he will run for re-election. Gardner announced that he will deliver the letter announcing his intention to seek re-election, along with all qualifying documents, to the Prichard city clerk today at 10 a.m.
Gardner will hold a press conference after qualifying. He is promising to provide additional information about the campaign next week.
Gardner’s qualifying letter simply reads: “To Whom It May Concern: I, Jimmie Gardner, on this date, July 6, 2020 do humbly submit this letter to affirm that I will be seeking the office of Mayor for the City of Prichard, Alabama in the 2020 election.”
Gardner was elected mayor in the 2016 municipal elections, defeating incumbent Mayor Troy Ephriam.
“I have spent my entire career over 35 years protecting and serving the community in which I love,” Gardner stated. “My mission as Mayor is to ensure that the City of Prichard receives the recognition that it deserves. We are a strong, resilient people who care about their neighbors and want to see our city move in a positive direction.”
“As your Mayor, I pledge to give 100% to ensure that the progress this city deserves will begin,” Gardner continued. “I am not promising an overnight fix, but in time through prayer, hard work and dedication from everyone, The Change Will Come! Please patiently work with us as we make critical decisions for the betterment of the City of Prichard.”
The city of Prichard is in Mobile County and had a population of 21,531 in 2018. The city of Prichard had a population in 1993 of 38,410, but like much of Alabama, outside of pockets of prosperity, has been in decline in recent decades.
Prichard was incorporated in 1925. The city boomed from ship building and the paper industry in the 1940s and 1950s, peaking like Mobile in 1960, but since then, the city has been negatively impacted by the decline in American shipbuilding and the closure of the International Paper and Scott paper mills in the 1980s.
Improving roads made it easier for people to commute to work so much of the city’s middle class has moved to new developments outside the city limits.
Jefferson County GOP pens letter to governor complaining of Democrat appointed as probate judge
The members of Jefferson County Republican Party Steering Committee last week sent a letter to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey bitterly complaining about her recent appointment of Jim Naftel, a Democrat, as a Jefferson County probate judge.
“We, both as elected officials and leaders of the Jefferson County Republican Party Steering Committee, on behalf of the entire Jefferson County Republican Executive Committee wish to express our displeasure in your appointment to Jefferson County Probate Judge, Place 1,” the letter reads.
“Our main objection is we had one request and that was one request only – the appointment of qualified Republican to this post,” the Jefferson County GOP continued. “In recent history, your pick for this position was given the opportunity to participate in the Republican Primary, he chose to vote as a Democrat. In 2018, when you were running for Governor in the Republican Primary, he chose to vote a Democrat ballot. Even this past March of 2020, when he had a chance to cast his vote for President Donald Trump, he again chose to vote in the Democrat primary.”
“Secondly, this position runs all elections for Jefferson County,” the Steering Committee added. “On June 30th, Secretary of State John Merrill was quoted in Alabama Today as stating, ‘The probate judge has a significant level of influence. I cannot emphasize how important it is that this person is involved, interested, and informed on all things related to elections.’ We have no knowledge of your appointee’s experience in this area. We are not aware of his previous expertise in the election process at the county level or having been involved with any level of ballot security activities in our County.”
In the letter, the members said all of the Republican legislators and commissioners recommended a specific qualified Republican to be appointed to this post.
“This Republican had been recommended and mentored by a former ALGOP General Counsel who you personally hired to be your legal counsel during your last campaign,” the letter reads. “This choice was clearly experienced in the elections area of the Probate position and was best prepared to serve as our chief elections officer. Rarely, if ever, do all of these people agree on one thing and they agreed on this. These above stated reasons are why we, both as elected leaders in Jefferson County and members of the Jefferson County Republican Party, would like you to be aware of our displeasure for your selection of Probate Judge, we request a clear explanation of why this choice was selected despite the request as outlined above, and we hope you will listen to our counsel on future appointments in Jefferson County.”
The letter was signed by Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman Paul DeMarco and the other officers and members of the steering committee.
Naftel was appointed to fill the position previously held by Judge Alan King, who has retired after 19 years of service.
“As one of my appointees, you will be making important decisions that directly affect the citizens of Alabama,” Ivey wrote to Naftel. “I have made honesty and integrity a priority in my Administration, and I know that you will embody these two virtues while serving the people of Alabama. Please plan to be a good steward of the taxpayers’ money and work in your position to instill trust in state government. The responsibility that comes with this appointment is not to be taken lightly. I trust that you will rise to the occasion and set a standard for others to follow.”
Naftel was an attorney with Maynard, Coooper & Gale, where he has worked since 1998.
“Jim is a shareholder and member of the Firm’s Estate, Trust and Business Planning Practice, Fiduciary Advisory Services Practice, and the Fiduciary, Trust and Estate Litigation Practice groups,” the firm wrote in his bio on their website. “In his Fiduciary Litigation practice, Jim advises and represents both individuals and corporate fiduciaries in their capacity as trustees and executors, including pre-litigation, mediation, trial and appellate proceedings. Jim also represents beneficiaries of estates and trusts. In addition, Jim represents clients in proceedings related to financial abuse of the elderly, conservatorships, guardianships and other protective proceedings.”
Naftel is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, has been recognized as one of The Best Lawyers in America in the areas of Trust and Estates and Litigation: Trusts and Estates. He earned a law degree from the University of Alabama law school in 1998. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi in 1994.
“It is an honor to be appointed and I look forward to serving Jefferson County in this role,” Naftel told AL.com.
Republicans, including Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan, had been urging the governor to appoint a Republican to the position.
Former Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead wrote hours ahead of the appointment, “For the life of me, I cannot understand why we are even having a conversation about our Republican governor appointing a Democrat as the top election official in Jefferson County. If we have to lobby our Republican governor to appoint a Republican to this important position we have a real problem!”
While Republicans continue to dominate Alabama politics, the party has grown increasingly uncompetitive in Jefferson County, where Republican Sheriff Mike Hale was defeated in 2018 and the last two Republican district attorneys were both defeated in general elections.
While Hillary Clinton was trounced statewide in 2016, she carried Jefferson County, as did Barack Obama in 2012 and 2008.
The last time that a Republican presidential nominee carried Jefferson County was incumbent President George W. Bush back in 2004. Naftel’s appointment could perhaps be interpreted as meaning that the governor’s office believes that Jefferson County is a lost cause for Republicans moving forward given recent demographic changes and that the best a Republican governor can hope for is to pick the best Democrat for countywide office as a Republican would lose reelection.