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Alabama Supreme Court temporarily blocks Jefferson County court’s Confederate monuments ruling

The Alabama Supreme Court has granted the state of Alabama’s motion to stay a recent Jefferson County Circuit Court judgment that declared the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017 to be unconstitutional.

“I am pleased that the Alabama Supreme Court has granted the State’s motion to stay the Circuit Court’s ruling,” Attorney General Steve Marshall said. “We think that U.S. Supreme Court precedent clearly demonstrates that the Circuit Court erred in striking down the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act. Thus, we asked the Alabama Supreme Court to preserve the status quo regarding the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Linn Park until the Court rules on our appeal.”

“The Supreme Court’s stay allows the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act to remain in effect until the Supreme Court resolves this appeal over the Act’s constitutionality,” Marshall said. “We continue to hold that the Circuit Court erred when it ruled that the U.S. Constitution grants cities free speech rights that they can enforce against the State. For more than a century, the U.S. Supreme Court has held just the opposite, recognizing that ‘a political subdivision, created by the state for the better ordering of government, has no privileges or immunities under the federal constitution which it may invoke in opposition to the will of its creator.’ We look forward to presenting these arguments to the Alabama Supreme Court.”

The Alabama Legislature passed the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act in response to municipal governments, most notably New Orleans, for removing or demolishing historical statuary and markers remembering the veterans of the Confederacy and its military in the Civil War of 1861 to 1865. The city of Birmingham would like to remove its Confederate Veterans Memorial; but has been blocked from doing so by the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, which requires that local governments apply to remove the memorial to a commission in Montgomery.

A Jefferson County circuit judge had ruled the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act unconstitutional because it infringes on the free speech rights of Birmingham’s city government to celebrate the history that they prefer. Marshall maintains that local governments are simply subdivisions of state governments and thus have no free speech rights beyond what the state government allows them to have. In this case, that does not extend to removing the Confederate Veterans Memorial.

The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act was sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, and former state Rep. Mack Butler, R-Rainbow City.

The stay by the Alabama Supreme Court means that Birmingham is barred from moving the monument while the case proceeds through the appeals process.

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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