The danger of being correct

It’s fascinating how the New York Times buries the lede in its complaint about the Alabama Supreme Court’s failure to do what it is under no legal burden to do in the first place.

ON Tuesday the Supreme Court of Alabama prohibited the state’s probate judges from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This decision effectively throws down the gauntlet, challenging the federal courts to make earlier federal rulings stick — including last month’s refusal by the United States Supreme Court to stay a federal judge’s decision requiring the state to recognize same-sex marriages. It draws on a disturbing line of thinking in the history of American federalism, one that, were it to gain currency as a model, could compromise our entire system of law….

Since the United States Supreme Court will rule on gay marriage in June, it’s easy to dismiss the Alabama court’s ruling as quixotic. But it raises a real issue: not what state courts can do, but rather what they should do. Because state and federal courts operate on entirely separate tracks, the state court’s position that it need not follow lower federal court rulings is technically correct. Yet if our judicial system is to function smoothly, both court systems must, from time to time, refrain from exercising their legal discretion to ignore the other’s handiwork.

Apparently the New York Times is operating on outcomes-based logic. We’re supposed to believe that our entire system of law is threatened by a state court’s legally correct position? If being correct is “dangerous defiance”, what does that make those being defied?